USDA-NASS Projects California Almond Crop Up 18 Percent to 3 Billion Meat Pounds

The California Almond Objective Measurement Report, published today by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), estimates that the 2020 crop will be 3.00 billion meat pounds, up 18% from the 2019 crop production of 2.55 billion pounds.[1] This estimate is even with the 3.00 billion pounds estimated in the California Almond Subjective Forecast, published in May 2020.

According to the 2020 Objective Report, the average nut set per tree is 5,645, up 21% from the 2019 almond crop. The Nonpareil average nut set is 5,621, up 27% from last year’s set. The average kernel weight for all varieties sampled was 1.51 grams, down 2 percent from the 2019 average weight.

“This year’s crop is proof that California is the perfect place to grow almonds,” said Holly A. King, Kern County almond grower and Chair of the Almond Board of California (ABC) Board of Directors. “Perfect weather during bloom, coupled with the steps almond growers have taken to ensure our orchards provide a healthy environment for honey bees and other pollinators, resulted in the abundant crop we are seeing on the trees up and down the Central Valley.”

Recent disruptions in global trade due to COVID-19, and ongoing trade disputes and negotiations with China and other key markets extending into the year, have caused some short-term challenges with the current crop, but the long-term outlook remains positive.

“As a shelf stable and nutritious food enjoyed by consumers around the world, we’ve weathered these disruptions in pretty good shape,” said Almond Board President and CEO Richard Waycott. “Domestic and export shipments are up year-to-date, and we expect global demand to be stronger than ever as we market this year’s record crop.”

While the Subjective Forecast provides an initial estimate of the 2020/2021 crop, the Objective Report is based on actual almond counts and uses a more statistically rigorous methodology to determine yield. In Dec. 2019, ABC’s Board of Directors approved a modified sampling protocol to further improve the accuracy of USDA-NASS’s reporting. From this year forward, the Objective Report will include measurements from 1,000 target orchards throughout the state (an increase of 150 samples from 2019) and provide nut counts on not one but two branches per tree. The Objective Report will also provide the weight, size and grade of the average almond sample broken down by growing region – no longer growing district – and variety.

USDA-NASS conducts the annual Objective ReportSubjective Forecast and Acreage Report to provide the California almond industry with the data needed to make informed business decisions, and thanks all farm operators, owners and management entities for their time in providing the information necessary to create these reports. These reports are the official industry crop estimates.

Bee Friendly Farming Promoted By Almond Board

Almond Board Launches Bee+ Scholarship to Promote Bee Friendly Farming

  

 The Almond Board of California (ABC) and Pollinator Partnership are proud to announce the alignment of ABC’s California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP)[1] and Pollinator Partnership’s Bee Friendly Farming (BFF) program to promote the importance of providing pollinators with nutritional forage. To further support almond growers in planting pollinator habitat, the Almond Board is simultaneously launching its Bee+ Scholarship, through which it will provide free cover crop seed to 100 almond growers through Project Apis m.’s Seeds for Bees program. The scholarship will also cover the cost for growers to register for the BFF program.

The CASP and BFF program alignment and Bee+ Scholarship expand on a commitment made in the Pollinator Protection Plan, announced in January, to promote pollinator health and biodiversity by encouraging almond growers to provide habitat for pollinators in or near their orchards.

“Protecting and improving honey bee health, not only during the short time that bees are in our orchards but year round, is critical to the success of every almond grower. By working with national organizations such as Pollinator Partnership and Project Apis m., we are expanding our focus to all pollinators, viewing working lands as part of biodiverse ecosystems,” said Almond Board Chief Scientific Officer Josette Lewis, Ph.D.

“Responsible farming is at the heart of what the California almond community does. ABC’s Bee+ Scholarship and the alignment between CASP and BFF allow us to increase our support to growers as they remain committed to growing almonds in better, safer and healthier ways, adding biodiversity to their farms, and improving outcomes for pollinators.”

Funding provided by ABC’s Bee+ Scholarship will allow growers to plant an estimated 3,500 acres of quality pollinator forage statewide – that’s in addition to the cover crop seed Project Apis m. typically distributes directly to almond growers through their Seeds for Bees program each year.[2] Currently, over half of almond growers participating in ABC’s California Almond Sustainability Program report allowing native cover crops to grow in their orchards.[3] This scholarship will help to convert more of those native cover crops to quality pollinator forage.

Partnerships Work to Best Serve Pollinators, Almond Industry

With the alignment of the CASP and BFF programs, almond growers who complete assessments in CASP specifically focused on bee health and pest management, and who meet certain BFF criteria, will qualify to register for the BFF program and become Bee Friendly certified. This certification will allow growers and their processors to use the Bee Friendly Farming logo on their product, and growers will be publicly recognized on Pollinator Partnership’s website as being a “Bee Friendly Farm” – in addition to receiving a BFF metal sign to display on their property.

The criteria to become Bee Friendly certified[4] are as follows:

  • provide cover crop forage in or near orchards
  • provide bloom of different flowering plants throughout the growing season
  • offer clean water for pollinators
  • provide habitat for nesting via hedgerows, natural brush and more
  • practice integrated pest management

“Pollinator Partnership’s Bee Friendly Farming program is a perfect conduit to increase pollinator benefits and to ensure protection and sustainability within the almond industry. Almond growers are terrific partners in best management practices, and we look forward to a close and growing relationship in support of pollinators and producers,” said Laurie Adams, president and CEO of Pollinator Partnership.

Because the CASP and BFF program alignment focuses on providing nutritional forage to supplement the diets of native pollinators in addition to honey bees, the decision to launch the Bee+ Scholarship and encourage greater forage planting among growers was a natural complement to the industry’s broader pollinator health initiatives.

“With a crop that relies primarily on honey bees for pollination, it is in almond growers’ best interest to ensure their orchards are a safe place for bees each spring,” said Billy Synk, director of Pollination Programs for Project Apis m.

Seeds for Bees aims to provide California farmers with a variety of seed mixes that bloom at critical times of the year when natural forage is scarce, but managed and native bees are active. While the mixes are designed to meet the nutritional needs of honey bees, they also provide habitat and nutrition for other pollinators and beneficial insects. Research supported by Project Apis m. and the Almond Board has shown that pollinator habitat is fully compatible with typical almond production practices and does not interfere with important growing activities like harvest.

“Working together with organizations like the Almond Board of California, Pollinator Partnership and many more, along with many researchers, almond growers and beekeepers, we can achieve far more collectively than we can separately,” said Project Apis m. Executive Director Danielle Downey. “These collaborations, focused on research and data, communication and forage, are a critical component to the long-term sustainability of beekeeping and almonds.”

Almond Leafout Problem Is Not Widespread

 

Leafout Problems In Almonds Not New

By Patrick Cavanaugh with the Ag Information Network of the West

The leafout problem in almonds has been around a couple of years, throughout Northern California, said Luke Milliron, a UCANR orchard system, farm advisor serving Butte, Glenn, and Tehama Counties.

Milliron explained that the leafout problem in almonds is not exactly new. “Some of these orchards have actually had the problem for a number of years now. Dani Lightle former advisor in Glenn County observed a number of orchards in Tehama County with the problem and going back to those same orchards this year, she said some of those growers say that it’s been getting worse in those blocks and the trees really don’t look good,” Milliron said. “But it’s certainly not something that’s affecting, for example, every Monterey tree, which is usually more susceptible to the problem.”

“There are orchards across the state that looked fabulous, so it’s highly variable between blocks and within blocks it might only be a low percentage of the trees being affected,” Milliron noted.

The reason for this disorder is not really widely known, but there are theories.

“Having warm winters and potentially this problem being in those varieties because of some genetic predisposition. Plus, why are we seeing it on some trees and not others? Well, maybe those trees had other stresses such as Anthracnose or mites or some other stressor at play that led them to be pushed into this stress, vegetative leaf failure state,” Milliron said.

Almond Board Election Underway

Voting Starts Today for Many Positions on Almond Board

 Voting will begin April 29 to select one independent grower member and alternate position and two independent handler members and alternate positions on the Almond Board of California (ABC) Board of Directors. These positions will serve terms beginning on August 1, 2020.

Candidates for the independent grower position are:

Position One, Member (One-year term):
Paul Ewing, Los Banos (petitioner)
Louie Ott, Modesto (petitioner)
Mike Mason, Wasco (petitioner)

Position One, Alternate:
Joe Gardiner, Earlimart (petitioner)
Brad Klump, Escalon (petitioner)

Candidates for the independent handler positions are:
Position One, Member (Three-year term):
Terry Boone, Modesto (petitioner)
Alexi Rodriguez, Caruthers (petitioner)
Micah Zeff, Modesto (petitioner)

Position One, Alternate:
Ron Fisher, Modesto (incumbent)

Position Three, Member (One-year term):
Jonathan Hoff, Denair (petitioner)
Darren Rigg, Le Grand (petitioner)

Position Three, Alternate:

Chad DeRose, McFarland (petitioner)
Dave Phippen, Manteca (petitioner)
Ballots and instructions have been mailed to all independent growers whose names are on file with ABC. The Almond Board must receive ballots by May 27, 2020, for them to be counted. If an independent grower or a handler does not receive a ballot, one may be obtained by contacting ABC’s Bunnie Ibrahim, senior analyst, Government Affairs, at (209) 343-3228 or bibrahim@almondboard.com.As a governing body for the industry, the ABC Board of Directors is comprised of five handler and five grower representatives who set policy and recommend budgets in several major areas including production research, global market development, public relations and advertising, nutrition research, statistical reporting, quality control and food safety.

Almond Board Wants More Efficient Irrigation

Almond Board Goal: More Crop Per Drop of Water

By Patrick Cavanaugh, with the AgInfo Network 

Jossett Lewis has Chief Scientific Officer with the Almond Board of California. And this is a big goal of the Almond Board more efficiency in water use for almonds.

“We’re tackling this from two directions. One is to improve irrigation efficiency and to get more crop per drop,” said Lewis. “So our goal of decreasing the amount of water by 20% needed to grow a pound of almonds is our Orchard 2025 goal in this area. And we’ll focus attention on how to improve the efficiency of operating irrigation systems. We’ve had really great adoption already of high efficiency systems like micro sprinklers and drip,” she said.

And the almond board is funding research and doing grower outreach to find out when an almond tree actually needs the water.

“We have a goal of more precise timing of the application of that water, which can pay off, particularly in getting more yield for the same amount of water,” Lewis said. “A large part of achieving that goal is actually improving the efficiency of how we time irrigation so that it matches up closely with the needs that the tree, so we can get more yield for the same amount of water. So that’s an area of continued work and a lot of outreach,” Lewis explained.

Patience on Irrigating Almonds

When To Start Irrigating Almonds

 

By Tim Hammerich, with the AgInfo Network

When to start the irrigation on those almond orchards? Most growers want to get out there early to get the trees the water they need and to apply nitrogen through fertigation. However, there are risks associated with starting irrigation too early. This according to Dave Doll, who spent 10 years as a UC Farm Advisor in Madera County and is currently managing a farming operation in Portugal.

“The risks you have about starting the irrigation season too early is that you apply too much water that reduces the amount of oxygen within the root zone that depletes the ability for the tree to develop feeder roots or find feeder roots, which help with nutrient and water uptake,” said Doll. “So as such, what we would recommend and what still is a recommendation from my perspective and what we’re doing on an operation here, is to evaluate these trees for water demand in the spring before we start our application.”

“And this can be done through the use of a pressure chamber, which measures stem water potential, or even watching soil moisture probes to make sure that you’re getting a depletion in your top two feet of in soil moisture before you start applying in irrigation,” noted Doll.” And this in essence, will help you have better water management or more resiliency in your water management as a tree continues to grow and the temperatures pick up.”

Be Aware of Yield Robbing Ants in Almond Orchards

Late April and May Are a Crucial Time to Survey Orchard for Ants

By Patrick Cavanaugh, with AgInfo.net

Ants potentially can be a serious problem in almond orchards said Kris Tollerup a UC Cooperative Extension Area Wide IPM advisor based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension center in Parlier, southeast or Fresno. “Ants can be a very serious problem,” Tollerup said.I’ve had growers get up to 12% damage, but the interesting thing is that there’s only a couple of ant species that are really important.”

 

And Tollerup said that’s the Southern fire ant and the pavement ant. And we asked Tollerup how a grower would go about identifying these ants. “You can go out and collect some ants using corn chips in vials and put out several vials into the orchard and collect them in the morning and throw them in the freezer and the next day, put them out on a plate and look at them with a hand lens. And there’s some very good resources on the University of California IPM website that’ll help identify those ants,” he said.

Tollerup noted sampling should be done anytime through April and May.It gives you plenty of time to get out there, identify those ants, and see what you got,” he said. “And the interesting thing is that you don’t have to sample, but just one time a year or maybe even one time every couple of years because ants don’t reinvest orchards very, very quickly.”

And if you have an ant issue, go to the UCI PM website on ants where they also have recommendations on control products. Again, over the next six weeks is a good time to be looking for those yield-robbing ants.

Almond Buyers Are Curious About The Farm

Buyers of Almonds Are Asking More Questions About Farm Practices

By Patrick Cavanaugh, AgInfo.net

Ben Goudie is membership development with Blue Diamond Growers, who move a lot of almonds around the word.

He noted that buyers of their products for distribution are interested in sustainability growing practices. “You know, in the past sales conversations have been pretty basic, with general questions about price and availability,” said Goudie. “Now, a lot of the sales meetings start with conversations about sustainability, start with conversations about corporate social responsibility and what we’re doing with our growers. What we’re also doing in manufacturing, looking at energy savings, looking at all aspects of sustainability on the corporate level,” h explained.

And the Almond Board of California’s Almond Sustainability Program (CASP) where growers fill out information on their growing practices is part of the information Blue Diamond Growers share where their buyers. “We are using the CASP survey as the basis for our grower information. We are also working on a full and comprehensive sustainability program with our sustainability manager, Catherine Campbell, and she has put together a full package that we supply to our buyers,” Goudie said.

Goudie noted that the in-house sustainability program they’re putting together is comprehensive. “It is pretty robust—everything from energy savings to looking at our distribution and supply chain, how we’ve made savings and looking at our carbon footprint,” he said.

Almond Pollination is Going Strong Throughout California

Keeping Bees Safe and Healthy During Almond Pollination

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

It’s always good to think about those working bees in almond orchards, said Becky Langer the project manager for the North American Bayer CropScience Bee Health Program.

“Bees continue to face multiple challenges and that’s not necessarily new information. I think what we see though as people are getting a better grasp of awareness that pest and diseases continue to be a huge problem in those beehives,” said Langer. “Beekeepers are working very hard to monitor and control those.”

“We know forage and habitat continue to be a huge challenge. We have climate change, which can affect those wild flowers blooming in California during the drought years and then we know that the beekeepers and growers have to continue to communicate with one another, and use all those products according to label.,” she said.

And for almond growers, it’s a good idea if you can the plant a variety of different forages around the orchard, different species of flowers for instance. “That can be a great idea because we know those bees have to eat, and if we can have something blooming year round, it’s the best way to keep the pollinators healthy,” said Langer

 

“They also like diversity in different plant species, different colors, different size flowers. You want them to pollinate your crop, but if you’re offering some alternative resources in the area that keeps them better fed and happier pollinators, which will make better pollinators for the crops,” Langer said.

Langer reminds growers to read those product labels. “This again is going to help to provide a much healthier environment for the pollinators and it’s going to keep the grower in the good graces of the beekeepers too,” she noted

Whole Orchard Recycling

Whole Almond Orchard Recyling is A Next Generation Farming Practice

By  Tim Hammerich with California Ag Today

The Almond Board of California recently announced their $5.9 million investment into next-generation farming practices. The Board is exploring some of these initiatives  as they offer insights into challenges faced by California growers.

Josette Lewis, Director of Agricultural Affairs for the Almond Board of California, says one area these investments have really paid off recently has been in something called whole orchard recycling.

“This is when an orchard gets to the end of its life and the trees are taken out. They’re chipped and deep-ripped into the soil, and then disced over to put that entire orchard biomass, which is a huge amount of woody material, down into the soil…

“We’ve been doing research for quite a number of years that shows that that can improve soil quality: things like water holding capacity, and soil organic matter. It does not seem to pose a particular problem for replant disease or soil-borne pathogens. But very importantly, that research this last year paid off in terms of the California Department of Food and Agriculture has decided to include whole orchard recycling in their healthy soils incentive program.”

Lewis says this incentive program will provide dollars to help growers with the costs of recycling their orchards, which also gives them this benefit of healthier soils long term.