Prune orchards are being harvest in the Sacramento Valley, a job that takes about 30 days.
That wasn’t always the case.
The harvesting of prune plums has changed. Growers used to soften the soil beneath the trees and let the prune plums drop. Then, pickers would gather the plums to take to the dehydrator. Today, harvesting is more efficient and is largely done by machines. A shaker machine grabs a tree trunk and, in just seconds, shakes the fruit onto a fabric mechanically spread underneath. Next, the fruit is quickly put on a conveyor for a fast ride from bins to the dehydrator.
A video taken by Sacramento Valley Water group shows the modern, efficient way the fruit is now harvested. The video was taken at Filter Farms, north of Yuba City.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
The Sacramento Valley is one of the world leaders in prune production.
Growers determine harvest time by checking fruit firmness and sugar content with a tool called a light refractometer, according to californiadriedplums.org
Growers of plums for prunes in California expect an 80,000-ton crop this year, down 24 percent from the 105,000 tons harvested in 2017, according National Agricultural Statistics Service predictions.
Despite the season’s variable rain and temperatures, orchard conditions improved during the season and some producers reported a good fruit set, according to a National Agriculture Statistics Service survey.
“I don’t think the bloom was really strong this year, but even though it was cold and wet the bees still got out,” Hugo Garcia, who manages orchards for Deseret Farms of California, told Western Farm Press, which provides information to farmers and producers in California and Arizona.
“(The prune crop is) probably going to vary a little bit because the cropping is really variable,” UCCE advisor emeritus Rick Buchner told Western Farm Press. “Some of it is good and some is really light. We had a heck of a time pollinating them.”