Posted: Thursday, May 03, 2012 11:00 AM
Sunshine speeds development of wheat crop while rain hinders rice planting
By TIM HEARDEN
REDDING, Calif. -- The arrival of spring brought wild weather swings to California's Central Valley in April, helping some crops develop while delaying others.
Cool rainstorms -- and a devastating hailstorm -- alternated with warm sunshine through the course of the month to provide something for just about everyone's weather tastes. In Redding, for instance, it got as chilly as 29 degrees on April 6 and as hot as 90 degrees on April 20, according to the National Weather Service.
The April showers put most areas above their normal rainfall totals for the month while keeping many reservoirs flush. Shasta Lake, for instance, was at 98 percent of capacity as of May 1, according to the California Department of Water Resources. However, most areas are still way behind their average rainfall totals for the year.
And May likely won't give them a chance to catch up. Long-range forecasts predict mostly sunny days with highs in the 80s on the horizon.
"We should be sliding into summer," said Kathy Hoxsie, the National Weather Service's warning coordinator in Sacramento. "We should see maybe a few more of these brush-by's across Northern California ... but they're going to be less and less."
The warm and dry weather accelerated the maturation progress for the wheat crop, and some early planted grains were cut for hay and silage, according to a USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service crop weather report.
Plums, peaches, apricots and nectarines continued to develop last month while cherry bloom wrapped up and other fruit was leafing out, NASS reported.
But the periods of rain kept rice growers from starting with their planting in mid-April as they prefer to do. Planting may start later this week, said Charley Mathews, a Marysville grower.
"It's been like the last three years that we've been getting these late April or early May starts," Mathews said. "We had an extra-dry January then another March miracle. The ground's drying out slowly. It's probably a little wetter on the east side than other areas. But we're still going to plant. We always do."
Growers in the Kingsburg and Reedley areas in the San Joaquin Valley are assessing damage from hailstorms that hit April 11-13 and estimate they may have lost as much as 20 percent or $100 million of their stone fruit crops.
The hail affected a wide variety of crops - peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots as well as cherries, grapes, kiwi, almonds, walnuts, wheat and oats, deputy Tulare County agriculture commissioner Gavin Iacono has said.
Elsewhere, however, non-irrigated rangeland continued to improve with the late spring rains, NASS reported. Supplemental feeding of livestock diminished as nutrient value and volume of grasses increased, according to the agency.
Here are the April and seasonal rainfall totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of April 30:
Redding: Month to date 2.73 inches (normal 2.48 inches); season to date 22.75 inches (normal 32.08 inches)
Eureka: Month to date 4.76 inches (normal 3.32 inches); season to date 38.04 inches (normal 37.8 inches)
Sacramento: Month to date 2.42 inches (normal 1.15 inches); season to date 12.18 inches (normal 17.63 inches)
Modesto: Month to date 2.25 inches (normal 0.97 inches); season to date 8.44 inches (normal 12.36 inches)
Salinas: Month to date 2.12 inches (normal 2.09 inches); season to date 23.1 inches (normal 34.71 inches)
Fresno: Month to date 2.02 inches (normal 0.95 inches); season to date 8.15 inches (normal 10.86 inches)