Today is the first day of the 45th annual Almond Conference! To kick off the event, Almond Board of California (ABC) announced this year’s research funding investments of $4.8 million in 64 independent, third-party research projects. With this announcement, the California Almond community, through ABC, has invested nearly $70 million in industry-changing research spanning over 40 years, highlighting our commitment to sustainability.1
First held in 1973, The Almond Conference brings farmers and processors together with researchers to discuss the latest science advancements. While its scope has expanded over the years, this event is key to bringing ABC’s research investments into reality and onto the farm, supporting our goal of continuous improvement, helping almonds to be an economically, environmentally, and socially responsible crop for California.
ABC’s research programs provide a scientific foundation for responsible almond farming and processing practices across priority areas including water sustainability, protection of honey bees that pollinate the state’s almond crop, and new uses of almond hulls, shells, and woody material in an effort to use everything produced in the orchard, supporting a zero-waste approach.
Since 1982, California Almond farmers have committed $6.7 million to 201 different water research projects. This investment has helped farmers reduce the amount of water needed to grow a pound of almonds by 33% over the past 20 years.2
This year, 14 of the 64 research projects focus on water sustainability, spanning topics of irrigation efficiency, groundwater recharge, and water quality, with a total investment of $1.2 million. One of the new projects is:
- Assessment of Water Status Using Inexpensive Thermographic Imagery, Lead Researcher: Brian Bailey, UC Davis - This new research project will explore the creation of a smartphone app and heat sensing platform to more precisely determine irrigation needs at any given time through leaf surface-and tree-temperature. The goal is to create a widely accessible tool for almond farmers to determine real-time irrigation needs and increase efficiency.
Honey Bee Health
Since honey bee health was made a strategic research priority in 1995, the California Almond community has committed $2.6 million dollars in support of 113 projects that address the five major factors impacting honey bee health. Research has also supported the development of orchard practices designed to keep bees safe during almond pollination.
This year, California Almond farmers added to that investment with six projects totaling nearly $300,000, funding more honey bee health research than any other crop group3. A current project supporting our pollination partners is:
- Technical Transfer Teams Serving Commercial Beekeepers in Almonds, Lead Researcher: Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Bee Informed Partnership - Technical Transfer Teams are made up of traveling bee doctors who work with beekeepers to monitor hive health and advise on pest and disease treatment as necessary, and nationwide they service 99 commercial beekeepers many of whose honey bees pollinate almonds each spring. Almond Board has funded Tech Transfer Teams in partnership with the Bee Informed Partnership since 2010, and results show that beekeepers participating in the program lost, on average, 36% fewer colonies than those commercial operations who did not participate.
ABC and the California Almond community have ensured that each of the almond coproducts – hulls, shells, and woody material – are put to beneficial use through funding 58 research projects since 1977, totaling $1.6 million.
Nine studies have been funded this year with a commitment of $540,000 to determine how almond coproducts may address needs across food, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, automotive, and more. One of those studies is:
- Evaluation of Almond Shell and Soft Wood Derived Biochars as Soil Amendments, Lead Researcher: Sanjai J. Parikh, UC Davis - This new research project will explore utilizing almond shells to create different formulations of biochar, a soil amendment, evaluating their quality in a greenhouse setting. Should these products prove beneficial to soil and plant health, it has potential applications across agriculture, landscaping or even in backyard gardens.
“We are family farmers. For the most part, we live on our farms or very close by to them, raise our kids here and want them to inherit our farms and our companies,” said Almond Board President and CEO, Richard Waycott. “When we think about improving our industry across the myriad areas of opportunity, it also involves wanting to make a better environment for our children and grandchildren. Research investment plays a huge role in this future.”
Each research project was selected by a committee of almond farmers and processors after review by a research advisory group of independent experts who evaluated the proposals for scientific merit, strategic alignment to industry needs and anticipated impact of the research. All research projects are funded through an assessment paid per pound of almonds produced.
1Sustainable 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.
2University 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.
3Gene Brandi. Vice President, American Beekeeping Federation.