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 9: The Ideal Mediterranean Climate
Mediterranean climate zones are scattered across the globe (including California!) and they’re the perfect place to grow almonds. Thanks to its ideal climate, rich soil, water availability and infrastructure, and innovative technology and research, California is the most productive almond growing region in the world. With its cool wet winters and hot dry summers, California offers ideal growing conditions for almonds and produces the most crop per acre of land.
Kernel 8: Accelerating Improvement Through Research
Featuring bold new partnerships -- and nimbler than ABC’s traditional research program -- the Accelerated Innovation Management (AIM) program consists of four major initiatives designed to meet the future needs of the California Almond industry while benefiting local communities and the environment. They include water management + efficiency, sustainable water resources, air quality an 22nd century agronomics.
The California Almond community, through ABC, has been investing in research since 1973. To continue to help farmers navigate complex challenges, this year ABC committed $4.7 million in 82 independent, third-party research projects exploring next-generation farming and sustainability practices.
ABC Continues Commitment to Research with New $4.7M Investment
AIM Initiatives: The Future of Almond Farming
Almond Industry Launches Major Strategic Effort to Accelerate Innovation and Sustainability
Kernel 7: Farming for the Next Generation
According to the most recent USDA Agricultural Census, there are around 6,800 California Almond farms, over 90 percent of which are family farms,7 many owned and operated by third- and fourth-generation farmers who live on the land and plan to pass it down to their children and grandchildren. Almond farmers recognize the need to carefully manage resources for current and future generations, and offer continued work for their employees while protecting their families, neighbors, local communities and the environment.
One of these families is the Bays family – three-generations of California farmers who work together each day to implement sustainable practices across their 2,000-acre ranch. In addition to almonds, they Bays’ grow almonds, apricots, tomatoes, and lima beans.
California Almond Farmers infographic
Innovation and Sustainability is Second Nature For Three Generations of Bays Ranch Family
Society of Environmental Journalists Tours Almond Orchard
Esquire Magazine: Bays Ranch Family Profile
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2Stantec. 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.
7USDA. 2012 Census of Agriculture. Oct. 2014.