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Strawberry acreage down, volume similar to 2014 crop

The total California strawberry acreage reported for 2015 is 37,438, which represents about a 3 percent decrease from last year, but that may not result in less volume.

Newer varieties tend to yield better than older varieties, and weather factors can easily affect volume by much more than 5 percent. Because of the mild winter and relatively dry spring, California growing conditions have been very good and no one will be surprised if total volume approaches or tops last year’s number of about 192 million trays.

Over the last five years, total acreage has fluctuated between 37,000 and 39,000 except for 2013, when it almost reached 42,000 acres. This year is a “normal” year as opposed to an outlier. However, the numbers do reflect several ongoing trends.

In the first place, the southernmost growing district, categorized as Orange County/San Diego, continues to lose acreage at a relatively fast clip. In 2012, growers in that region planted 1,446 acres. This year’s plantings of 973 acres represents almost a 50 percent drop in four years. The region now represents only about 3 percent of the state’s total acreage. Urbanization is the cause for the drop, as that region of the state continues to see its farm acreage gobbled up by houses and other construction.

Another noteworthy trend is the increase in fruit planted in the summer for fall production. These plantings tend to extend the season and result in more volume in the final quarter of the year. These plantings help California come very close to producing year-round.

The growers in the Oxnard and Santa Maria areas are responsible for the increase in summer plantings. Though those plantings have yet to occur this year, growers have projected summer plantings at more than 5,700 acres. In 2011, 3,500 summer acres were planted. That jumped to more than 3,700 in 2012 and surpassed 5,000 acres for the first time two years ago. This year’s number represents a 10 percent increase over last year.

Though the amount of organic strawberries planted has been increasing every year, that is not the case this year. Total organic acreage reported for 2015 is 3,184 acres. The reported organic acreage represents 8.5 percent of total state acreage. Last year, organic acreage reached its highest total to date at 3,268 acres. In terms of numbers, this year’s total is only 84 acres less and probably represents the shifting of available ground rather than a cessation of the trend toward increased organic acreage. The amount of acreage devoted to organic production has increased by about 60 percent in the last four years, and that trend is expected to continue.