Irrigation Improvement Continuum
California’s limited water supply is a reality for almond growers and agriculture as a whole. To help growers best manage their water resources, the Almond Board of California is heavily investing in resources to help growers conserve water while optimizing almond production and tree health, as well as the protection of ground and surface-water from potential runoff or leaching of grower inputs.
One of these resources is the Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum, a comprehensive manual of irrigation management and scheduling practices.
Recognizing that growers may be at different stages of irrigation efficiency for a variety of reasons, including orchard age and access to new technology, the Continuum provides information at three management levels — 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 — each covering the following concepts and how to execute and effectively integrate them:
- Measuring irrigation system performance and efficiency
- Estimating orchard water requirements based on evapotranspiration
- Determining the water applied
- Evaluating soil moisture
- Evaluating plant water status
Continuum Level 1.0 (fundamental management) outlines irrigation management practices that are within reach for all California almond growers. The Continuum Level 2.0 (intermediate management) and Level 3.0 (advanced management) address practices at more advanced levels to attain even more “crop per drop.”
The Irrigation Continuum was developed in partnership with many trusted and respected technical experts and resources such as University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension. Please email Spencer Cooper, at the Almond Board for an in-the-orchard visit or phone consultation. Spencer also provides system-specific recommendations on an orchard-by-orchard basis to increase growers’ "crop per drop."
In addition to the manual, one-page how-to documents are available for grower use:
- Determining When to Begin Irrigation
- Irrigation Scheduling Using Evapotranspiration (ET)
- Almond Salinity Hazard and Leaching Requirements
- What to Consider Before Investing in Irrigation Technology
- Using a Flow Meter to Determine the Irrigation System Application Rate
- Determining Your Application Rate: Impact Sprinkler Irrigation
- Determining Your Application Rate: Micro-Irrigation Systems
- Determining Your Applied Water: Surface Irrigation (Furrow and Border Strip)
The Irrigation Calculator supports the practices in the Irrigation Continuum and generates irrigation run time schedules that advise on the amount and timing of irrigation based on local evapotranspiration and information about an individual grower’s orchard and irrigation system. Linked to the nearest CIMIS station, this tool automatically integrates current weather information, allowing growers to better calculate their orchards’ irrigation water requirement. The Irrigation Calculator can be accessed on the California Almond Sustainability Program website and is referenced throughout Almond Irrigation Continuum.
The scheduling tool stores data for each orchard block and the information is completely private. All almond growers can use the Calculator to create irrigation schedules; however, growers must participate in the California Almond Sustainability Program to access the Calculator’s data storage feature, which saves the need to reenter data when making revisions during the growing season. Data can be printed or displayed as a PDF file or exported into a database.
Hullsplit Strategic Deficit Irrigation
Almond trees can tolerate moderate drought stress from the completion of kernel fill to 90% hullsplit without risk of crop loss or long-term yield effects. Moderate water stress at this time provides three additional benefits: 1) lower potential for hull rot; 2) a more uniform hullsplit, leading to an earlier harvest, when crop damage from rainfall is less likely; and 3) an earlier harvest. All of these benefits can help minimize crop exposure to late-season navel orangeworm flights and potential aflatoxin contamination.
Why is Irrigation Improvement a Priority?
The Almond Board of California is a research-based organization committed to science-based solutions to meet growing challenges. With today’s increasing consumer interest in how almonds are grown, we are placing greater emphasis on innovative almond farming practices to meet the future needs of the California almond industry, the consumer and the planet.