The California Almond Harvest
Good harvesting techniques and post-harvest handling, which determine marketability and profit, are keys to achieving maximum yield of high-quality California Almonds.
A successful almond harvest begins with a clean, dry orchard floor.
After the crop is mechanically shaken to the ground, the nuts are raked into windrows and allowed to dry naturally, ideally to a hull moisture content that does not exceed 12%, or a kernel moisture content that does not exceed 6%, which can take anywhere from a few days up to two weeks.
A harvest sample taken after shaking and before the crop is windrowed will provide a progress report of that season’s IPM program, and will indicate what pests are in the almond orchard, which will, in turn, help determine the management activities for the next year.
Pickup machines sweep the windrows into carts or trailers for transportation to a huller/sheller facility. With the large crops of recent years, it has become more and more common for almonds to be stockpiled, either in the orchard or at the huller/shellers. To avoid insect damage, stockpiles should be monitored and fumigated if necessary.
Reducing Dust at Harvest
Improving air quality in California, especially in the San Joaquin Valley, is a major issue for all residents. Sweepers and pickup machines can create a significant amount of airborne particles (PM10). Almond Board of California–funded research has developed numerous methods growers can use to reduce dust at harvest, such as changing sweeper head height, reducing the number of blower passes, using metal tines, and reducing pickup machine speed. In addition, equipment manufacturers have made changes to the sweepers and pickup machines to reduce the amount of visible and PM10 dust emitted. At this time there are incentive funds available from NRCS for use of this low-dust technology which also apply to growers who contract with custom harvesters.
Everyone involved in the harvesting of California Almonds should work to keep dust inside the orchard, considering your soil and considering your neighbors. View the video below to learn about steps you can take before harvest, while sweeping, and during pick-up that will reduce harvest dust. Making these small adjustments in harvest practices can add up to great improvements in dust reduction across the growing region.
- Sweeper Cost Analysis Calculator: A tool for determining if growers should make an extra sweeper pass or leave the remaining nuts behind.
- Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association: Evaluation of Particulate Matter Abatement Strategies for Almond Harvest (Faulkner et al.)
Stockpiling and Concealed Damage
Maintaining California Almonds that are stockpiled requires careful management to avoid contamination and damage that can reduce kernel quality and lead to food safety concerns. The key issues in stockpile management are moisture and temperature.
The following documents provide guidelines for managing moisture in the stockpile and minimizing concealed damage that can result from harvest rains and excess moisture.