Committed to Continuous Improvement: Announcing the Almond Orchard 2025 Goals

Posted January 17th, 2019

The California almond community is a collection of family-run farms dedicated to growing good and making life better through innovation and responsible production of a healthy food accessible to people around the world.

California is uniquely suited to growing almonds, and its farmers produce 80% of the world’s supply. In addition to sustainably growing a healthy food that people love, almond farmers and processors constantly challenge themselves to do more with less.

The Almond Board of California (ABC) supports this effort by funding essential scientific research, programs and farmer outreach. Over the past decades, this has resulted in significant advancements in the areas of water, nutrient management, air quality, honey bee health and more.

Building off these previous achievements, the California almond community is committing to four new goals – the Almond Orchard 2025 Goals – which focus on zero waste, water efficiency, pest management and air quality.

Read on for more details about the newest commitments in our continuous improvement journey.

Water Conservation

ALM_2025-Goals_Water_RGB.pngGOAL: By 2025, the California almond community commits to reduce the amount of water used to grow a pound of almonds by 20%.

Since 1982, the California almond community has funded 210 water research projects to improve on-farm practices. Those also supported the adoption of innovative new technology like microirrigation – now used by nearly 80% of almond farms,1 almost double the California state average of 42% of farms.2

With improved production practices and the adoption of efficient microirrigation technology, almond farmers have reduced the amount of water needed to grow a pound of almonds by 33% over the past two decades.3

Over the next several years, guided by the Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum, farmers will continue to implement water management practices designed to optimize irrigation and conserve water. Those include more precise calculations of orchard water requirements, measuring applied water and monitoring irrigation system performance, soil moisture and plant water status.

Weird and Wonderful Uses of Almond Coproducts

ALM_2025-Mark_Zero-Waste_CMYK.pngGOAL: By 2025, the California almond community commits to achieve zero waste in our orchards by putting everything we grow to optimal use.

Almonds grow in a shell, protected by a hull, on a tree. These products have traditionally been used for livestock bedding, dairy feed and electricity generation. Changing markets for these coproducts are spurring new research that explores additional uses to bring value to farmers, other industries, the environment and local communities.

Since 1977, the California almond community has funded 66 research projects to study the best ways to utilize almond coproducts. New research is exploring using almond hull and shell components as a growing medium for mushroom cultivation, a feed source for poultry, plastic additives for strength and color, soil amendments for almond orchards and other crops, supplemental winter food sources for honey bees and even for brewing beer!

Innovations in how almond coproducts are used can support California in creating a genuine bioeconomy, where every product is an input for another valuable product.

Responsible Pest Management

ALM_2025-Mark_PestMgmt_2c.pngGoal: By 2025, the California almond community commits to increase adoption of environmentally-friendly pest management tools by 25 percent.

Almond farmers use an integrated pest management approach to protect the crop and trees from bugs, weeds and disease. This means using tools and techniques like beneficial insects, habitat removal, mating disruption and, when necessary, pesticides.

Responsible pest management is a core element of farming almonds sustainably. As multigenerational farmers, many of whom live, work, and raise their families on the land, almond farmers have reduced pesticide use per acre by 13% over the past 25 years and are striving for more.4

Through research, the California almond community is looking at ways to better manage harmful pests like bugs, weeds and disease. In addition, farmers partner with expert pest advisors, constantly monitoring local conditions to ensure they’re only treating when necessary and using alternatives to pesticides, like beneficial insects and mating disruption, whenever possible.

By protecting almonds, and the trees they grow on, from damaging pests, farmers ensure that the natural resources, like water, required to produce them are used responsibly and efficiently.

Improved Air Quality in Our Local Communities

ALM_2025-Mark_Dust_CMYK.pngGoal: By 2025, the California almond community commits to reduce dust during almond harvest by 50%.

California almonds are harvested by shaking the nuts to the ground where they dry naturally in the sun before being swept up and collected, a process that can create dust in our local communities.

To minimize dust in the short term, ABC is working with farmers to fine-tune harvest practices and adopt low-dust equipment that can add up to significant improvements. This is supported by a decade of Almond Board-funded research to help establish best practices proven to reduce dust and educational videos, technical guides, orchard workshops, equipment demonstrations and more.

In the long-term, the almond community is re-envisioning its approach to harvest, accelerating research that will result in cleaner air for all who live in the Central Valley. Some of the areas being explored include changing the structure and layout of our almond orchards to implement lower-dust off-ground harvest techniques, similar to pistachios or grapes.

Going Forward

All in all, the California almond community recognizes its local role as a leader in California agriculture and global role as a powerhouse in almond production, and we're working together to grow almonds in better, safer and healthier ways.

To learn more about all of the efforts underway supporting this continuous improvement journey, visit Almonds.com/GrowingGood.

 

1California Almond Sustainability Program. Aug. 2018.
2California Department of Water Resources. California Water plan update 2013: Volume 3, Chapter 2.
3University of California, 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2012. Almond Board of California, 1990–94, 2000–14.
4California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Pesticide Use Report: Statewide Summary Report, Indexed by Commodity. 1990-2016. United States Department of Agriculture. National Agricultural Statistics Service. California Almond Acreage Report. 1990-2016. As weather varies from year to year, the damage pests can do does too.