As we head into 2021, California continues to experience below-average rainfall. It is a far too common occurrence for California’s growers, especially those in Fresno County, which is located in the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley.
Shasta Lake Dam, California
Fresno County grows around 32% (loads inspected) of California’s processed tomatoes, with a good portion lying within the federally owned Westland’s Water District. This district receives its water supply from the Central Valley Water Project, fed by water from the state’s northern reservoirs that currently sit at levels ranging from 54% to 71% of historical averages. The Northern State Precipitation Index also sits at about 53% of average. As the 2021 tomato growing season quickly approaches, Fresno County growers remain skeptical about their water allocations, which could now range from 10% to nothing at all.
As integral as rainfall is to California agriculture, the snowpack is just as significant. The Northern Sierras have had a few snowstorms within the last month; however, snowpack levels remain far below average. March may bring better news as California weather forecasts are pointing towards a wet month.
Mother nature is a fickle beast that growers have been dancing with since man first planted crops. Resilience, persistence, and innovation have kept them moving forward. While another looming drought puts pressure on California groundwater, it is often under these conditions that growers obtain excellent yields on their tomato crop due to less soil compaction, uninterrupted planting in the field resulting in optimum transplant timing, and decreased crop disease typically caused by wet conditions.