How We Grow

2021 Nov/Dec How We Grow

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It has been a challenging year for the California almond industry with a combination of drought and low prices. Yields are coming in slightly lower, kernels a little smaller and growers are feeling the squeeze on profitability. As we head into the dormant season, it's time to finish orchard tasks and take stock of what worked well this past year and think about what we might try differently next year. This issue of How We Grow provides options to consider, drawing from Almond Board-funded research and from your peers in the industry. Top on the list of final orchard tasks is winter sanitation to remove mummy nuts. We say it every year for good reason: sanitation is the most important tool for managing navel orangeworm (NOW), setting up the next year for success. Anecdotal reports from PCAs and handlers this year is that 2021 will have heavier NOW damage. That translates into lower prices for growers, higher costs to handlers for extra sorting and elevated risk of aflatoxin for exporters. At the 2019 Almond Board NOW Summit, Mel Machado of Blue Diamond reminded growers that reject levels calculated at the handler don't include an estimated additional 50% in losses that are screened out at the sheller. If you total both losses, a 2% damage level can mean $450/ acre losses on-farm. In this edition, you can read more about how navel orangeworm management has become a year-round effort, anchored by winter sanitation. Labor can be costly, but the result and some new additional annual benefits make it worth it. Looking for new opportunities to increase the efficiency and optimize your return-on-investment next year? Growers may take a look at California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP). CASP is a tool to help growers assess all aspects of their operation. Program enrollment has seen incredible growth over the last year, allowing participants to benchmark their practices against almost half of California's almond acreage. Each module provides insights on practices that could advance the efficiency and stewardship of your resources compared to other growers. For those already enrolled, you might revisit a single area such as irrigation or pest management to identify new tweaks when you see how your peers are farming. You can learn more about the modules and the incredible increase in participation in this edition. This issue also offers more opportunities to learn from others in the industry. Pomona Farms shares how they use composted manure, almond hulls and prunings to improve their soil and put waste to productive use. Getting two for the price of one, growers might also consider cover crops as an option. Research shows that cover crops can benefit the pollinators that are so critical to the start of a good almond year as well as help solve some soil problems like compaction. At a time when both trees and farmers are stressed about water, addressing compaction will improve infiltration of winter rains and the soil's water holding capacity. You can read more about grower experiences with this practice and those who went a step farther to become Bee Friendly Farming certified. Read on to learn if these practices might fit with your operation. How we grow impacts our profitability, our freedom to operate and how we market almonds in several leading markets. Water tops the list of concerns in all three of these areas during the drought. Finally, in this edition you'll learn about new Almond Board-funded research that is integrating the latest technology together to understand almond tree physiology to optimize water use efficiency. By supporting collaborative trials in growers' orchards, we ensure that research reflects the diversity of real operations in the industry and can be translated into practical options for how we grow. LEADERSHIP "How we grow impacts our profitability, our freedom to operate and how we market almonds in several leading markets. Water tops the list of concerns in all three of these areas during the drought." — Dr. Josette Lewis Dr. Josette Lewis ABC's chief scientific officer 1

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