A major new strategic effort
designed to make the almond industry even more efficient and sustainable was
announced Dec. 9 by the Almond Board of California (ABC).
Through the Accelerated
Innovation Management (AIM) effort, the ABC will accelerate its investment in
sustainability plus almond tree and farming research.
In addition, ABC will increase
efforts to develop new partnerships and collaborations to drive four major
initiatives to move the entire industry forward, says Richard Waycott, the
ABC’s president and chief executive officer.
The four major initiatives
Water Management and Efficiency -
A focus on accelerating almond farmer transition to more efficient irrigation
scheduling and management practices to get the most ‘crop per drop’ of water.
This initiative builds on the 33
percent reduction in water used per pound of almonds achieved by the industry
over the last 20 years. It will include a range of activities, from working
with farmers to fine tuning irrigation techniques, to adopting more advanced
water management technology.
Sustainable Water Resources - An
exploration of how to best leverage a unique strength of the California Almond
industry, its acreage, for accelerating natural flood-year groundwater recharge
California’s aquifers are
collectively the state's largest water storage system. Water recharged through
this program would benefit all Californians - not just farmers.
A second part of this initiative
will search for opportunities to recycle water from multiple sources, including
municipal wastewater, to increase overall water availability for farmers and
Air quality provision
Air Quality – Investigate
different ways that the almond industry can help meet the Central Valley’s
exacting air quality standards. This will delve into various ways that almond
production impacts air quality and evaluate opportunities to decrease emissions.
From analyzing industry fossil
fuel use to small- and large-particle pollutants, all components of almond
farming which impact air quality are under scrutiny.
The initiative will identify
alternatives to create cleaner air for all those who live in California's
Central Valley – farmers, their families, and surrounding communities.
22nd Century Agronomics - A
recognition that the almond industry needs to better understand and adopt
technology that will lead California farming into the 22nd century.
The ABC will lead a comprehensive
exploration of almond farming techniques; bringing an exploratory mindset to
consider all options as to which innovations and technical "leap
frogs" are needed to sustainably farm in the future.
Each component of almond farming
will be considered - from land
preparation to varietal development to equipment and processing.
Waycott says significant progress
has already been achieved on two of the initiatives – sustainable water
resources and air quality. The almond industry will keep consumers and
customers aware of major research projects in these areas, plus other
initiative areas in the future.
"Our recent partnership with
Sustainable Conservation is exploring the potential of using California almond
orchards for accelerated recharge of Central Valley groundwater,” Waycott said.
Research this winter will channel
excess winter flood water into almond orchards in several test sites, including
Merced, Stanislaus, and Fresno counties, Waycott says, where a UC Davis study
will track soil moisture and water movement, tree response, detailed root
development, and growth response.”
On air quality, Waycott says the
ABC, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and others are carrying out a new
USDA-funded pilot project designed to give almond and corn growers greater
access to greenhouse gas markets, similar to those under California's cap-and-trade
This project builds on nearly 10
years of ABC funding to improve nitrogen management and better understand
greenhouse gas emissions, particularly nitrous oxide (N2O) from almond
Waycott says the EDF project
dovetails with ABC-funded research to better understand the energy flows and
the associated greenhouse gases over the average 25 years of an almond
Life cycle analysis research on
growing almonds by UC Davis has shown that the industry could become carbon neutral,
or even negative, if policy changes and production advancements work
Waycott voiced that farmers are
innovators. Since the first California almond plantings more than 150 years
ago, almond growers have adapted, changed, and pushed ahead to improve best
practices and develop new technology.
ABC research programs have driven
the innovation and through this new program will carry on and accelerate this