California Almond Orchards: Growing More Than Just a Delicious Nut
Today the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported that California’s almond acreage increased in 2016. Bearing acres – that is orchards old enough to produce a crop – were reported at 940,000 acres, up 2 percent from 2015. Total almond acres for 2016 were estimated at 1.24 million acres, up 7 percent from 1.16 million acres the previous year.1
Almond orchards are generally planted with 116 trees per acre,2 each acre growing 450 pounds of protein, 260 pounds of fiber, and “good” monounsaturated fats.3,4
In addition to producing 80 percent of the world’s supply of heart healthy, nutrient dense almonds,5 the state’s 130 million almond trees provide four key benefits to California and beyond:
- Bee Hive Strengthening: Almond blossoms provide the first natural food source for honey bees each year and the hives routinely leave stronger after visiting during bloom.6 At this time, beekeepers are able to split many of their hives to grow their apiaries.7
- Health Enhancing: Almond trees benefit air quality by capturing and storing carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas. The trees also produce oxygen and act as a natural filter, cleaning pollutants from the air with measurable health benefits. In fact, nationally, on average, an acre of trees is associated with $11 in annual averted health costs!8
- Economy Building: The California Almond community adds $11 billion annually to California’s economy and provides 104,000 jobs across the state, 97,000 of which are in the Central Valley.9 Beyond job creation, almond farmers and processors are part of the fabric of their local communities, supporting schools, businesses, and civic and religious organizations.
- California Value Adding: Almond trees grow more than just almonds. In addition to the kernel that we eat, the hull and the shell are also used. These recycled almond coproducts are used to address needs across several industries, including feed and bedding for livestock, plastics, and cosmetics. In addition, 60% of almond trees grow on soil good for groundwater recharge,10 AND the trees do enhance the natural beauty of the Central Valley!
1 USDA-NASS. 2016 California Almond Acreage Report. Apr. 2017.
2 USDA-NASS. 2016 California Almodn Objective Measurement Report. Jul. 2016.
3 USDA-ARS, NDL. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. Version Current: September 2015, slightly revised May 2016.
4 USDA-NASS. 2015 Almond Acreage Report. Apr. 2016.
5 Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. One serving of almonds (28g) has 13 grams of unsaturated fat and only 1 gram of saturated fat.
6 Ramesh Sagili. Assistant Professor – Apiculture, Department of Horticulture. Oregon State University.
7 Ferris Jabr. “The Mind-Boggling Math of Migratory Beekeeping.” Scientific American. August 2013.
8 Nowak, D., et al. Tree and forest effects on air quality and human health in the United States. Environmental Pollution. 193: 119-129. May 2014.
9 University of California Agricultural Issues Center. The Economic Impacts of the California Almond Industry. December 2014.
10 Land IQ. Groundwater Recharge Suitability Analysis. November 2015.