Earth Day is this Friday, and this year's theme is Trees for the Earth. According to the Earth Day Network, trees are an important part of achieving a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet because they help us combat climate change, breathe clean air and help our communities.
A recent study in the Journal of Industrial Ecology found that almond trees in California absorb and store significant amounts of greenhouse gas throughout their lifespan.1
And we're currently conducting research on how to manage inputs, like fertilizer, as well as outputs, like the trees' various byproducts -- biomass like hulls, shells and wood in an impactful way. As the study's authors noted, it's realistic that the almond industry could be carbon neutral or even carbon negative, if production improvements and policy changes can go hand in hand.2
Did you know that almond trees produce multiple products, none of which go to waste? In addition to the almond kernel itself, there's the almond hull, which is used to feed livestock, reducing the amount of land and water that would otherwise be used to grow other feed crops. Even the shells of almonds go to various alternative farming uses, such as livestock bedding.
The benefits of almond trees are even recognized long after they stop producing nuts. Recently, the Almond Board of California has funded research to understand the benefits of whole orchard recycling -- grinding up entire almond orchards and incorporating the tree biomass into the soil, returning nutrients, improving the soil quality, and potentially sequestering the carbon contained in the wood chips.
Above and beyond the tree itself, for decades, California almond growers have shown their adaptability by investing in scientific research and new technologies to drive sustainability, water efficiency, productivity and environmental responsibility. For example, almond farmers have been lead adapters of next-generation water-efficient irrigation systems and practices like micro-sprinklers and driplines, and demand-based watering instead of a predetermined schedule. In fact, 70 percent of almond growers use micro-irrigation systems, far above the average reported for California irrigation methods.3,4, These efforts have helped growers cut the amount of water needed to grow a pound of almonds by 33 percent in since 1994.5
Even with these achievements, California almond growers aren't resting on their laurels. When it comes to following sustainable agricultural practices, the California almond community continuously challenges itself to do more. The California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP) was established in 2009 in part to better understand the ongoing sustainability practices of almond growers related to water, air quality, energy and land (nutrient management, pest management and bee health) and to provide continuing education on these topics. And launched in December of last year, the Almond Board?s Accelerated Innovation Management (AIM) program will propel the industry forward by improving on four major initiatives in water management and efficiency, sustainable water resources, air quality, and 22nd century agronomics. Not only do these programs help almond growers, they?re also helping to combat climate change, ensure cleaner air, and help our communities.
For California's almond growers, every day brings with it gratitude for the earth that sustains our orchards, many of which are multi-generational family farms7. We're excited today to celebrate the beautiful almond trees that produce our favorite nut, and our continued efforts to ensure that the California almond community is sustainable for future generations.
Check out our social channels for more sustainability content to learn why we are so #Nuts4EarthDay!
1Elias Marvinney, Alissa Kendall, Sonja Brodt, Weiyuan Zhu. Life Cycle-based Assessment of Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Almond Production, Part II: Uncertainty Analysis Through Sensitivity Analysis and Scenario Testing. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 2015, 10.1111/jiec.12333.
2Kendall, A., Marvinney, E., Brodt, S. and Zhu, W. (2015), Life Cycle?based Assessment of Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Almond Production, Part I: Analytical Framework and Baseline Results. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 19: 1008?1018. doi: 10.1111/jiec.12332
3California Almond Sustainability Program. Jan. 2014.
4California Department of Water Resources. California Water Plan Update 2013. Oct. 2014.
5University of California. UC Drought Management. Feb. 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 66 ? Crop yield in response to water. 2012. Almond Board of California. Almond Almanac 1990-94, 2000-14.
6Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious, safe food product.
7United States Department of Agriculture. 2012 Census of Agriculture. Typology Table.