How We Grow

2020 May/June How We Grow

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FROM LEADERSHIP I have worked in agriculture my entire adult life. From my late teens through graduate school, I worked odd farm jobs and on harvest crews. Since finishing my graduate work at University of California (UC) Davis in 1995, I have worked in tree crop agriculture as a Pest Control Adviser (PCA) and then a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor. Throughout the years, I have met and gotten to know many remarkable people – most of them have been growers. Growers are innovative. In the last 25 years, California almond growers' hard work and innovation, along with the Almond Board of California's (ABC) research and marketing efforts, have produced remarkable growth in production, farm income and value to rural communities. This growth has also been made possible by considerable support from the UC, especially the UC Cooperative Extension, as well as United States Department of Agriculture researchers and other public and private entities. The world moves smoothly, in jerks. 1 Almond growers, and the industry as a whole, know there is a need to adapt and work with new tools and strategies as resources (land, water, markets, etc.) change. As the world moves at an increasing pace, the need to change ahead of unattractive but real limits and challenges becomes even more critical. The areas of focus for change and adaptation, identified by the industry in the Almond Orchard Goals 2025, are critical topics for the economic viability and sustainability of the industry and necessary to lessen the industry's impact on the water and air resources of the state. The Almond Orchard 2025 Goals state that by 2025, the California almond industry commits to: f reduce the amount of water used to grow a pound of almonds by an additional 20%, 2 f achieve zero waste in the orchard by putting everything grown to optimal use, f increase adoption of environmentally friendly pest management tools by 25%, and f reduce dust during harvest by 50%. Movement towards these goals will only benefit the California almond industry before and after 2025 as markets and buyers increasingly look for sustainable practices from producers. As harvest approaches, the 2025 Goal to reduce dust by 50% is especially timely. This is a huge goal, but with a few simple steps growers and custom harvesters can put the industry on the path to reaching that target. Each practice, as outlined in ABC's Managing Dust at Harvest Technical Guide, may not work for every operation and every orchard, but matching practices to particular orchards and machines is a good approach to reducing harvest dust. Here are a couple key practices detailed in the technical guide that have been tested by UC researchers: f Sweeper head setting(s): Make sure the sweeper head is set at ground level or slightly above the ground – between 0-0.5", which is the manufacturer's recommendation – to reduce dust at pickup by 32%, as opposed to setting the sweeper head 0.5" below ground level in an effort to "not miss a nut." f Machine speed: Driving the pickup machine at 1.5 mph cuts harvest dust in half compared to driving it at 3.0 mph. Time is money, but dust clouds are dangerous, especially along roads. Growers should identify sites at which slow speeds are especially necessary, such as near roads, buildings and property edges. Growers should also impress their efforts to reduce dust on their employees, stressing low-dust practices extending from mowing to harvest. ABC offers a set of short videos that demonstrate the importance of reducing dust and how that may be accomplished, in both English and Spanish, as well as a digital version of the technical guide at Finally, I encourage growers to consider assessing their harvest management practices using the California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP) Air Quality module. This CASP module is made up of five pages with simple questions requiring yes/no answers and touches on various elements of harvest management, from a grower's use of cover crops to the number of sweeper passes. Growers interested to learn more about this module and CASP are encouraged to visit to learn more about this program. Best wishes for a successful 2020 growing season. Franz Niederholzer Member, Harvest Workgroup Almond Board of California 1 Thank you, Bob Zasoski. 2 In the past 20 years, California almond growers have reduced the amount of water it takes to grow one pound of almonds by 33%. Source: University of California, 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2012. Almond Board of California, 1990-94, 2000-14. 1

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