Skip to main content

Almond Board Highlights Eastern Kentucky University Almond Analysis Inaccuracies

Almond Board
Sep 29, 2016
A new study by Eastern Kentucky University researchers uses spatial imagery to analyze almond plantings between 2007 and 2014 and has identified distinctly inaccurate trends about almond acreage.

A new study by Eastern Kentucky University researchers uses spatial imagery to analyze almond plantings between 2007 and 2014 and has identified distinctly inaccurate trends about almond acreage. A poster associated with the project articulates that almonds are grown in the Salinas Valley which is proven incorrect by visual observation of anyone in, or who has traveled to, this region and is contrary to existing spatial research from an environmental consulting firm, Land IQ, as well as annual almond acreage reports from the USDA-National Agricultural Statistic Service. These sources have found that almonds occupy 1.1 million acres in California, which is five times lower than the Eastern Kentucky University researchers have reported.

According to a Land IQ analysis of almond orchard plantings over the last 10-15 years, 10% of those planted over that period replaced native vegetation (non-irrigated grassland). The other 90% of almond plantings during that period replaced both perennial and annual crops, the largest portion of which was replacement of existing almond orchards.[1] And while some have suggested that the shift towards higher value, permanent crops has led to an increase in agricultural water use, according to the California Department of Water Resources the total amount of water used by agriculture has held steady since 2000, and has actually declined over a longer period of time. This is largely due to more efficient irrigation management and infrastructure.[2]

It’s also important to note that while almond acreage has grown in recent decades, Central Valley cities have also expanded. With them, urban areas bring greenhouse gas emissions nearly 60 times greater than agricultural lands, according to a recent statewide study of California emissions.[3]

“California land is a shared resource,” said Land IQ Owner and Principal Agricultural Scientist, Joel Kimmelshue. “When fertile farm land is converted to urban use it benefits residents, but has the unintended consequence of increased greenhouse gas emissions.  Balancing urban growth with carbon sequestering agricultural systems such as almond production can reduce the effect of urban heat islands and support farm land production on urban boundaries.”

According to the California Department of Conservation, between 1984 and 2010, 1.1 million acres of California irrigated farmland and nearly 370,000 acres of non-irrigated farmland was lost to urbanization.[4] An analysis of growth in just nine major Central Valley cities since 1990 indicates that in total, those urban areas have increased in size by 43 percent, which equates to a loss of nearly 223,000 acres of farmland[5] — an area equal to 69 percent of recent almond acreage growth.[6] “At the current rate, urban growth is far outpacing agricultural growth in California’s Central Valley and the balance between the benefits and costs of land use is changing,” said Kimmelshue.

Almond Board of California is currently in contact with the researchers associated with the new studies to determine their data sources, methodology, validation steps, and ensure the highest level of accuracy in research related to almonds.


[1] Land IQ. Previous Crop Analysis. Feb. 2016. Based on data from 2014 almond acreage mapping and California Department of Water Resources County Land Use Surveys.

[2] California Department of Water Resources. California Water Plan Update 2013: Volume 4. Feb. 2015.

[3] Shaffer, Steve and Edward Thompson Jr. A New Comparison of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from California Agricultural and Urban Land Uses. American Farmland Trust. May 2015. 

[4] California Department of Conservation. Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program. 1984-2010 Conversion Summary. http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dlrp/fmmp/trends/Pages/FastFacts.aspx

[5] Land IQ. Urban Acreage Change Analysis. Mar. 2016. Based on data from U.S. Census Bureau 1990, 2000, and 2014 Census Urban Area analysis (https://www.census.gov/geo/reference/urban-rural.html).

[6] Land IQ. Previous Crop Analysis. Feb. 2016. Based on data from 2014 almond acreage mapping and California Department of Water Resources County Land Use Surveys.

About the Almond Board

Almonds from California are a natural, wholesome and quality food. The Almond Board of California promotes almonds through its research-based approach to all aspects of marketing, farming and production on behalf of the more than 6,000 almond growers and processors in California, many of whom are multi-generational family operations. Established in 1950 and based in Modesto, California, the Almond Board of California is a non-profit organization that administers a grower-enacted Federal Marketing Order under the supervision of the United States Department of Agriculture. For more information on the Almond Board of California or almonds, visit Almonds.com or check out California Almonds on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and the California Almonds blog.

Contacts