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What is #AlmondSustainability?

Did you know one serving of almonds is 23 kernels? To celebrate our community’s responsible farming practices, we’re sharing 23 bite-size pieces of information about growing almonds sustainably.1 

Follow along here, and through #almondsustainability on social media, as we highlight topics across the Almond Board of California’s (ABC) sustainability ecosystem!

 

Kernel 6: Irrigation Research Improves Efficiency
 

 

California Almond farmers are innovators in water-use efficiency, largely due to years of Almond Board-funded research. In fact, almond farmers have adopted efficient microirrigation at nearly two-times the rate of California farmers.4,5

ABC began investing in irrigation research in the early 1980s and has since committed $4.4 million to 182 different irrigation research projects. Through this research, California Almond farmers have reduced the amount of water needed to grow a pound of almonds by 33% since 1994.6

Learn more:
The Bigger Picture: California, Almonds + Water
ABC Continues Commitment to Research with New $4.7M Investment
Almonds and Water 101 factsheet

Kernel 5: Pursuing Transparency and Accuracy
 

 

As an organization and industry rooted in research, ABC is always pursuing the highest degree of accuracy when it comes to almond information. That’s why we’ve partnered with Land IQ, an agricultural and environmental research and consulting firm, to develop a comprehensive, living map of California Almonds, orchard-by-orchard.

This comprehensive mapping analysis opens up new possibilities by improving the precision, accuracy, and transparency of information about the almond community. Understanding the impacts and opportunities of almond production is fundamental to responsible resource management and planning for the sustainable future of California agriculture.

For instance, preliminary analysis indicates that 675,000 acres of California Almonds are moderately good or better in their ability to recharge groundwater based on soil and subsoil characteristics.3

Learn more:
A Comprehensive, Living Map of California Almonds
Almond Industry Maps factsheet

Kernel 4: Water Conservation Through Infrastructure Innovation
 

The South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s (SSJID) award-winning pressurized irrigation pilot project is helping almond farmers in the area grow more crop per drop. In the system, water is distributed across 3,800 acres using 19 miles of pressurized pipelines – contrasted with traditional canals – that allows local farmers to apply the water exactly when their crops need it, rather than a pre-determined schedule, based on the movement of water through canals. Because the system is pressurized, it also allows for the use of efficient microirrigation systems that distribute water directly to where the trees need it, rather than to the entire orchard floor.

The SSJID pressurized system conserves 12,000 acre-feet of water per year, equivalent to the annual water use of 76,800 people.2

Many California Almond farms fall within the pilot project area and those farmers, like Matt Visser, are able to schedule their irrigations from anywhere in the world through the use of smartphones and tablets, and improve water efficiency through microirrigation systems.

Learn more:
Almond Community Profile: Matt Visser
SSJID Pilot Project factsheet: Maximizing the Crop Per Drop
South San Joaquin Irrigation District Water Delivery System Recognized with Grand Award for Engineering Excellence

Kernel 3: Mimicking Mother Nature
 


 

California Almond growers are finding new ways to make the most of the woody tree material produced by the removal of old orchards, including returning the wood back to the soil – much like a mulch. This new approach seeks to mimic the ultimate sustainable system – Mother Nature – by following the lead of forests across the globe, which are fueled by fallen logs and their decomposing woody material.

Known as whole orchard recycling, this technique grinds up entire almond orchards at the end of their mature life, incorporating each tree back into the soil. This can return valuable nutrients to the soil ecosystem, increase water infiltration and water holding capacity, and slow the rate at which carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, prolonging the carbon sequestration benefits that trees bring to our planet.

Research trials are underway to fully understand the benefits, as well as any risks, of whole orchard recycling for all California Almond orchards.

Learn more:
Researcher Works to Mimic Nature with Tree Recycling
Whole Orchard Recycling — An Alternative to Burning, Cogeneration?
Utilizing Everything the Orchard Grows: Our Commitment to Zero Waste

Kernel 2: Continuous Improvement 
 

California Almond farmers, like the Weststeyn family of White Crane Ranch, are continuously adopting new technology and practices. Over the course of farming almonds for nearly 30 years, the Weststeyns have adopted many sustainable practices that work in harmony -- among these are natural weed and erosion control, honey bee nutrition, and precision irrigation technology and practices.

Learn more:
Almond Community Profile: White Crane Ranch
Committed to Continuous Improvement

Kernel 1: Protecting Bees During Bloom and Beyond

Almonds need bees and bees rely on almonds, too. ABC is committed to encouraging working partnerships between almond farmers and beekeepers for a successful and sustainable pollination and bloom season.

To support farmers in protecting both their crop and the honey bees, almond industry-funded research, along with information from universities, government agencies and non-profits, informed ABC’s Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMPs) for California Almonds. These bee-friendly guidelines help everyone involved in the pollination process by providing recommendations ranging from making an orchard a safe home for honey bees, to how to treat for pests and disease without harming bees.

Learn more:
Almond Community Profile: Farmer Sonny Johns and Beekeeper Andy Angstrom
The Mutually Beneficial Relationship Between Bees and Almonds
Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMPs) for California Almonds​

Introduction: One Serving of Sustainability
 


 

California Almond farmer and Almond Board of California staffer Danielle Veenstra talks about her family’s farm and what sustainability means to the California Almond community.

 


1California Almond Sustainability Program definition: Sustainable 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.
2
Stantec. Maximizing the Crop Per Drop: SSJID Pilot Project. 2015.
3Land IQ. Groundwater Recharge Suitability Analysis. November 2015.
4California Almond Sustainability Program. Jan. 2014.
5California Department of Water Resources. California Water Plan Update 2013. Oct. 2014.
6University 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.