How We Grow

2020 Jan/Feb 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 HARVEST DUST 2 Could Off-Ground Harvest Put More Money in Your Pocket? Off-ground harvest is a growing buzzword in the California almond community. Looking to the future and seeing a need for improved harvesting methods, industry leaders are searching high and low – from evaluating harvesting methods in almond-growing regions around the world to trying off-ground harvest in their own orchards – to find a solution. Off-ground harvest promises many benefits including generating less dust and reducing exposure to the elements. But before any new harvesting method becomes viable and then widely adopted, it needs to make good economic sense and take into consideration a factor equally important to harvesting – drying. Que the latest harvest research funded by the Almond Board of California (ABC). UC Davis Associate Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Food Science & Technology Christopher Simmons, Ph.D., recently studied three off-ground harvesting scenarios in California almonds. The goal of his study was to understand the economic opportunities and risks associated with off-ground harvest and different drying techniques, compared to conventional methods. In his final report, Simmons suggests California almond growers could make more money per acre by moving away from the traditional shake-and-sweep technique, depending on how off-ground harvest and drying methods are implemented, as well as the cost of equipment. Under one scenario, Simmons estimates growers could increase their return on investment by $200 per acre. "We are excited to learn that off-ground harvesting and alternative drying methods may not only reduce dust and exposure to pests but could provide increased revenues for California almond growers," said Sebastian Saa, senior manager of Agricultural Affairs at ABC. Though predicting the level of dust reduction associated with off-ground harvesting was not central to Simmons' study, his techno-economic assessment of off-ground harvesting scenarios shows there may be an economic incentive to the Almond Orchard 2025 Goal to reduce dust during harvest by 50%. A big picture approach to drying To explore the question of how to dry the nuts once they're off the tree, Simmons applied three different drying scenarios to a hypothetical mature 100-acre almond orchard to determine the cost differential among them: Scenario 1: Off-ground harvesting with in-orchard windrow drying Scenario 2: Off-ground harvesting followed by drying in an adjacent lot Scenario 3: Off-ground harvesting followed by off-site mechanical drying Simmons based his cost estimates on a 2016 report by the UC Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources, which estimated that a mature orchard yields an average of 2,200 pounds of almonds that sell for, on average, $2.50 per pound. Simmons used the practices outlined in the report, along with their costs, as the foundation to study changes that could occur during off-ground harvesting. "I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all answer," said Simmons. "There's a Continue on page 3 In 2019, a group of Almond Board staff and industry members visited Israel to observe how off-ground harvest works in their almond industry. Israeli almond producers, who use this practice exclusively, showed the group what type of equipment they use and how it performs in their orchards. This visit has helped inform ABC's research on off-ground harvesting methods.

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