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 4 A L M O N D O R C H A R D 2 0 2 5 G O A L S PEST MANAGEMENT begin. Much of the current off-ground harvesting equipment requires trunks to be as high as 32 inches, Wahlbrink said. He believes for off-ground harvest to work in California almond orchards, manufacturers would need to develop off-ground machinery that can adapt to orchard layouts and tree heights. Saa said growers interested in trying off-ground harvest on their own operations need to thinking seriously about how and when they plan to plant new orchards. "Orchard configuration would likely need to be different and the trees themselves would either need to be smaller or their trunks would need to be free of branches for the first three feet," he said. Jury still out, but industry hopeful Saa said future research will focus on whether off-ground harvest allows growers to better manage water demand during harvest. "We also believe that it could improve soil health, but we haven't tested that hypothesis yet. There's much more research to be done, but if proven viable, off-ground harvest could be a game changer for the industry," Saa said. "There are lots of potential benefits to off-ground harvest: less pesticide use, less insect damage, more consistent moisture level, and, most importantly, less dust," said Guangwei Huang, ABC's associate director of Food Research and Technology. "However, we are not proposing off-ground harvest as an immediate solution or the sure-fire method to reduce dust by 50%. Our research efforts are to study the pros and cons, feasibility, costs, bottlenecks, etc., in hopes of generating a comprehensive report for growers so they can make informed decisions on what works best for them and what changes they need to make to farm more efficiently." Bee Health, Hive Reporting Goes High Tech Each year, more than 30 billion 1 honey bees transform California almond orchards into a place where dreams come true, turning billions of pink and white blossoms into almonds… Okay, so while comparing the industry's more than 1.3 million acres to a magical place like Disneyland may be a stretch, the reality is honey bees are one reason the almond industry has evolved to become worth more than $5.6 billion in 2017, 2 with thousands of jobs and businesses built around this specialty crop. (For the record, Disneyland generates about $5.7 billion in total economic activity to the California economy.) Bottom line: Without healthy, energized bees buzzing in the orchard, fewer blossoms will be pollinated and that will lead to a decrease in nut set and reduced yields. "We rely on bees from across the nation to come to California to pollinate our crop," affirmed Josette Lewis, director of Agricultural Affairs at the Almond Board of California (ABC). The California almond industry recognizes and appreciates the critical role bees play in its orchards. As such, when creating the Almond Orchard 2025 Goals in 2018 the industry made a point to include increased efforts around honey bee health as part of the goal to increase the adoption of environmentally friendly pest management tools by 25% by 2025. "The Almond Board is emphasizing the importance of honey bee health by investing grower dollars in research that seeks to find solutions to key threats to honey bees, including varroa mites," Lewis said. In addition to mites – pests that invade hive cells where a queen bee has laid her eggs and suck blood from developing broad and adult bees – one of the greatest threats to honey bees is pesticide use, as sprays used to battle various pests in the orchard can have the unintended consequence of harming bees if proper precautions aren't taken. Protecting pollinator health, therefore, requires growers, pesticide applicators, beekeepers, state and local officials and others to work in concert. BMPs the foundation of bee health Ensuring that pollination runs smoothly starts with consensus among all stakeholders to adhere to the practices outlined in the Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMPs) for California Almonds. These guidelines were developed by the Almond Board in 2014 and refreshed in 2018 with input from Continue on page 5 1 AgNet West, "BeeSafe Program Working in Tandem with BeeWhere Program." May 27, 2019 2 Almond Board of California, "California's Top 10 Valued Commodities," Almond Almanac 2018, p. 40 "The Almond Board is emphasizing the importance of honey bee health by investing grower dollars in research that seeks to find solutions to key threats to honey bees, including varroa mites," said Lewis.

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