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Reducing Harvest Dust for the Environment and our Neighbors

When the orchard is dry, heavy harvesting machinery can create significant dust. The California almond community has taken great strides in reducing harvest dust so that our neighbors can breath easily.

The responsibility of reducing harvest dust.

The California almond community is dedicated to producing an economically, environmentally, and socially responsible crop. Recognizing our local role in California agriculture and global role as a powerhouse in almond production, we're working to grow almonds in better, safer, and healthier ways, protecting our communities and the environment.

The Almond Orchard 2025 Goals are the latest way the California almond community is committed to continuous improvement, and one of our 2025 Goals is to reduce dust during harvest by 50 percent. The California almond community is taking short- and long-term steps to reimagine how we harvest, from in-orchard improvements to technological advancements.

Watch this video to learn more about our commitment to reducing dust.

Why Reducing Your Dust During Harvest Matters

Por Qué Es Importante Reducir El Polvo Durante La Cosecha

Establishing a clean orchard floor.

Creating a clean orchard floor is one key step growers can take to help reduce dust--and save them time and money--before the flurry of harvest begins. Growers should look to remove unwanted vegetation, sticks, and other debris, and fill in holes so that nuts don't drop in and get stuck in ruts.

Learn more about the importance of these three steps below.

Why Keeping Your Orchard Floor Clean Will Save You Time and Money

Keeping dust levels down during the sweep.

While growers are encouraged to apply for incentive funds [JN1] to help offset the cost of investing in new low dust harvest equipment, a number of key practices will reduce dust while sweeping with existing machinery. Growers should use fewer blower passes when possible, drive at slower speeds, ensure the sweeper heads are not set too low, based on local conditions, and more.

Watch the video below to learn five key recommendations to reduce dust during sweeping and how implementing these practices can save you both time and money.

Five Recommendations to Reduce Harvest Dust Using Sweeper Equipment

Reducing dust during pickup, the final step of harvest, comes down to slower speeds and good communication with equipment operators and custom harvesters.

Watch the video below to learn how reduced MPH and RPMs, the cornerstones of reducing dust during pickup.

Five Recommendations to Reduce Harvest Dust Using Pickup Equipment

Air quality is our priority.

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 these low-dust harvesters 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 and to a minimum, for the benefit of your soil and 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.

Managing Dust at Harvest

Manejo del Polvo en la Cosecha

Further videos for creating better air quality.

Click on the links below to view shorter videos outlining dust reduction strategies for three distinct phases of harvest.

Managing Harvest Dust: Pre-Harvest

Managing Harvest Dust: Sweeping

Managing Harvest Dust: Pick-Up

Click on the links below to view the Spanish language versions of shorter videos outlining dust reduction strategies for three distinct phases of harvest.

Manejo de Polvo de Cosecha: Antes de la Cosecha

Manejo de Polvo de Cosecha: Barrido

Manejo de polvo de cosecha: Recolección

For a printed summary of the steps presented in the videos above, download the Almond Board's Managing Dust at Harvest Technical Guide, available in English and Spanish.

Harvest Dust Technical Guide
Guía Técnica de Polvo de Cosecha
Additional resources:

Sweeper Cost Analysis Calculator
A tool for determining if it is worth making an extra sweeper pass or leave the remaining nuts behind.

Article from the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association
Evaluation of Particulate Matter Abatement Strategies for Almond Harvest