How We Grow

2019 Nov/Dec How We Grow

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A L M O N D O R C H A R D 2 0 2 5 G O A L S WATER USE 5 CASP Calculators Take the Headache Out of Reporting Requirements Hoping to protect the state's water supplies, California regulators are phasing in new reporting requirements for farmers, including almond growers. The evolving rules already apply to some San Joaquin Valley growers and will expand to other regions next year — putting more emphasis on how efficient irrigation and effective nitrogen fertilizer use work together to prevent impacting aquifers. Fortunately, years of investments by the Almond Board of California (ABC) in research and outreach have helped ensure that almond growers will have a leg up on the new requirements. Through the California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP), celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, ABC created tools to help growers estimate their crop water and fertilizer needs and record data about their applications. This not only provides solid information to support smart decision-making in the orchard, but it also reduces the effort needed to complete regulatory reporting chores. For growers, that means saving time and money. "The trend is obviously to push for improved efficiency, and it has been our goal to get there without mandates whenever possible. For that to happen, growers need to be proactive and solve potential issues themselves, before regulation," said Jesse Roseman, senior specialist in Environmental and Regulatory Affairs at ABC. "Our message to almond growers has been to do the best you can when it comes to protecting water quality. They can do that by following the best practices for nitrogen use efficiency that are backed by years of research and shared through our ABC outreach program." Conserving water, free tools a win-win Almond growers already have an excellent track record when it comes to water use efficiency — using 33 percent less water to grow a pound of almonds than just 20 years ago. 1 However, to ensure the resiliency of growers in coming years and expected scarcer water supplies, ABC set an ambitious goal for further improvement — an Almond Orchard 2025 Goal — to reduce the amount of water needed to grow a pound of almonds by another 20 percent by 2025. One key to reaching that monumental goal is increased irrigation efficiency. This effort entails not just installation of ever-more-efficient technology in almond orchards, but also increasing practical know-how among growers and their employees about how to get the most from these resources. Through CASP, growers have access to two tools that will help them identify opportunities for increased efficiencies regarding nitrogen and water use: f Nitrogen Calculator: a free, easy-to-use online tool that calculates nitrogen fertilizer needs throughout the season. The calculator takes into consideration yield estimates, leaf sampling results and nitrogen that comes from other sources. The calculator stores data by orchard block, making updates easy as information changes and not requiring users to re-enter their orchard data each time they use the tool. And, like all data input in CASP, it is completely private — information is not shared with anyone. f Irrigation Calculator: a free tool that generates irrigation run time schedules that advise on the amount and timing of irrigation based on local evapotranspiration rates and information about an individual grower's orchard and irrigation system. Linked to the nearest California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) station, this tool automatically integrates current weather information, allowing growers to better calculate their orchard's irrigation water requirement. Growers can access both calculators by creating a CASP account and logging in at "This tool can help growers save a lot of time and work. Normally you have to collect information on weather and evapotranspiration on your own, but with the Irrigation Calculator, all that data is already in the tool so all you have to do is specify what area you're in," said Chuck Dirkse, an almond grower in Stanislaus County. Growers who want to be even more efficient in their water use should work their way through the Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum, 2 a free, comprehensive manual of irrigation management and scheduling practices developed in partnership with trusted 1 University of California, 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2012. Almond Board of California, 1990-94, 2000-14. 2 The Nitrogen Calculator uses models developed by UC Davis plant scientist Dr. Patrick Brown and colleagues to predict how much nitrogen to apply and when to apply it to meet yield-based demand.

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