How We Grow

2021 Sept/Oct How We Grow

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Capay Valley, Yolo Co. A thick surface residue across the orchard is maintained year-round by mowing mixed vegetation in late spring. Zamora, Colusa Co. Bare soils are maintained across the orchard middle & berm using herbicides throughout the year. Dixon, Solano Co. Winter vegetation is maintained until late spring when it is mow terminated so that residues can decompose. Esparto, Yolo Co. A grass, brassica, and legume winter cover crop in terminated by animal grazing in this organic almond orchard. Vacaville, Solano Co. A small-diversified farm rotates three different animal species in their orchard throughout the year & maintains a pasture understory. Uncovering the management principles of healthy soils There are many management practices being promoted as ways to build healthier soils. However, the success and feasibility of these practices is highly dependent on other aspects of a grower's operation such as equipment availability, harvest times, weather patterns, access to resources and information and food safety precautions. Therefore, the team recommends growers consider the foundational ecological principles that underlie soil health-building practices and, from that information, identify specific strategies that can be used to build healthy soils and enhance soil ecosystem functions in their orchards. To determine which specific strategies show potential in the Sacramento Valley region, the team spent the last two years meeting with a wide range of almond growers whose management reflects these principles to address orchard challenges and meet diverse goals. 1. Reduce disturbances, when possible Although physical disturbances like tillage play a role in production, reducing these events minimizes the destruction of the environment where soil organisms live and perform important functions for agriculture. Given that reduced or zero-tillage management has been widely adopted across almonds, this principle is already easy for most growers to achieve in their efforts to improve soil health. It should also be noted that minimizing disturbances such as tillage in regions with heavy clay soil could have tradeoffs with soil compaction, potentially inhibiting root growth and the uptake of nutrients. To address these potential tradeoffs, growers can look to build soil organic matter and reduce compaction, which leads us to our second principle: Figure 2 Continue on page 19 Almond Board of California 18

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