Almond Board Report: Almond Varieties and Selections
The Almond Board of California began funding almond variety development research in the early 1970s and expanded that effort to include rootstock breeding in the late 1980s, investing an estimated $8 million, to date. In the past twenty years, this research has delivered five new University of California varieties (Padre, Sonora, Kester, Winters and Sweetheart), and supported testing of most commercial varieties and rootstocks for overall performance, resistance to pests, diseases and abiotic stresses, providing growers with information on options for different growing conditions.
Nurseries and private breeders have always played an important role in the introduction of new almond varieties and, in particular, accessing international rootstock for commercial release in California. To provide a mechanism to test the performance of new varieties across the diverse almond growing regions in the state, and under different soil conditions, in the 1970s the Almond Board began supporting long term and multilocational Regional Varietal Trials (RVTs), spanning from 1974 to present. In addition, in November 2019, ABC held its first ever “Crack-Out” event with the purpose of engaging the entire industry in a more comprehensive evaluation of new almond varieties. This event brought together public and private breeders, growers and handlers, hullers/shellers, UC researchers and nurseries to sample more than 60 varieties of almonds.
Breeding is an art of balancing improvements while accepting some trade-offs. To define this balance, experts must consider the various segments of the almond industry, starting with the growers, moving to the hullers and shellers, handlers, food companies, and then, ultimately, the consumer. In August 2020, the Almond Board published its Almond Varieties and Selections report, which provides and evaluation of national and international varieties or selections under development. Looking ahead, ABC will continue to work with researchers, breeders and nurseries to improve the value of industry investments in new variety development and evaluation, and share the findings from those efforts with the industry.