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Undersecretary Ibach’s First Visit to California in New Role
Undersecretary Ibach visits with California FFA students at the Almond Board booth at The Conference. Almond Board of California (ABC) was very pleased to welcome the newly appointed Mr. Greg Ibach, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to the 2017 Almond Conference. In addition to attending Conference, Mr. Ibach visited the University of California Agricultural Issues Center (AIC), both stops being part of what was his first trip to California as undersecretary. ABC, a Federal Marketing Order, is under the supervision of the USDA, specifically, the Agricultural Marketing Service agency. Mr. Ibach toured The Almond Conference trade show floor, meeting with industry members at their many booths and viewing new harvesting equipment. He also attended the luncheon featuring Steve Forbes, after which he met with ABC Board of Directors and other industry members. Their meeting provided an opportunity to talk about the Almond Board’s programs, its partnership with USDA and key issues facing the California Almond industry. The undersecretary was pleased to see many FFA students who volunteer each year at The Almond Conference, and he met with them to discuss their futures in agriculture. Mr. Ibach also met with some 2017 Almond Leadership Program participants, who explained how the program prepares individuals for leadership positions in the California Almond industry. ABC looks forward to working with Mr. Ibach and his staff both in California and Washington, D.C.
Learn What’s Buzzing at the Bee Pavilion
Curious about what it takes to get honey bees ready for the almond bloom? This year’s Almond Conference will take attendees through the yearlong journey from a beekeeper’s perspective. Growers will also have a chance to learn more through a highly visual exhibit about steps being taken to ensure honey bee health.
The Case for the Pressure Chamber and How to Get Started
Pressure chamber monitoring prior to hullsplit improves irrigation precision, helps manage hull rot If you hop in your truck before a road trip without knowing how much fuel you have in the tank, you may find yourself in a sticky situation down the road. Limiting irrigation without first understanding plant-water status can lead to similar pitfalls. Just like the fuel gauge shows how much gas is left, a pressure chamber offers a real-time look at the needs of an orchard. And, around hullsplit, accurate data on plant water status is especially valuable. A pressure chamber is a quantitative method for measuring plant water status, with relationships established between pressure chamber measurements and tree growth and productivity. A plant-based strategy, known as managed deficit irrigation (MDI) and regulated deficit irrigation, reduces water use during crop stages with higher stress tolerances. Leveraging MDI effectively can manage hull rot, increase water use efficiency and promote uniform hullsplit, leading to an earlier harvest and lower navel orangeworm (NOW) exposure, with no long-term impact on yield. The numbers speak for themselves — depending on soil type, MDI can result in an annual water savings of 10–50%, and hull rot can be reduced by 60–90% if leveraged between post-kernel fill and 90% hullsplit. Earlier harvests can mean getting nuts out of the orchard before third NOW flight, which typically occurs in early August. The success of it all, however, hinges on accurately knowing your starting point. Spencer Cooper, senior manager, irrigation and water efficiency, Almond Board of California, and Luke Milliron, UCCE Farm Advisor for Butte, Glenn & Tehama counties, regularly consult with growers on their irrigation practices. They know firsthand the importance of accurate data. “Without a pressure chamber, you’re essentially flying blind,” said Milliron. “Even if you know how much water you applied, what your soil holds and what’s lost through evapotranspiration, you still might not have the complete picture of where you’re standing.” “No matter if you’re trying to improve quality or reduce water use, the pressure chamber is the best way to find out what’s going on within the plant,” said Cooper. “From there, growers can leverage MDI in a way that maximizes benefits without sacrificing yield.” Getting started with a pressure chamber can seem like a daunting task, but the research community has done much of the footwork, producing many helpful how-to guides and videos. The UC Davis Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center offers an introduction to the pressure chamber and a video by PMS Instrument Company demonstrates the use of one popular model. For a more in-depth review, growers can reference the UC ANR Publication 8503, “Using the Pressure Chamber for Irrigation Management in Walnut, Almond, and Prune” and the Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum from the Almond Board of California. In addition to resources available online, Cooper and Milliron stress how learning from peers can be helpful. “The best way to learn is through consulting with someone familiar with the pressure chamber, be it a crop advisor, university specialist or fellow grower,” said Cooper. “In 30 minutes to an hour, you can learn what you need to be effective.” After nailing down the technique, gathering the readings themselves can be an easy task that only takes a few minutes and can be completed alongside other orchard management needs. Keeping a pressure chamber in the truck makes it easy to gather data during check ups in the orchard. “Growers are already in the orchard, walking the field and checking on their crop,” Milliron said. “Keep the pressure chamber in the truck, and it’ll be a quick, simple measure to add to the routine.” By dialing into the individual water needs of almond trees at a specific moment, growers can unlock a world of data that may help them better produce a high-quality crop. The more data, the more informed irrigation scheduling decisions can be — even a few readings is enough to provide insights otherwise unknown. The Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum offers growers a path to advance their plant water status monitoring. Moving from subjective visual cues to objective measurements from a pressure chamber, the Continuum helps growers improve accuracy and incrementally increase how often measurements are taken. The Continuum also explains how to confidently interpret your pressure chamber results, accounting for stage and weather conditions. “Growers know the value of informed decision making,” Cooper said. “The pressure chamber is a powerful plant-based monitoring tool that makes precision irrigation and practices like MDI possible.” For a hands-on demonstration on using a pressure chamber, or to learn more about the Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum, almond growers can request a free in-orchard consultation. Contact Spencer Cooper at email@example.com or (209) 604-3727 to schedule.
Be a Leader for the California Almond Industry [with audio]
Jenny Nicolau, Almond Board manager, Industry Services, gives an overview of the California Almond Leadership Program and the value it provides to participants and the industry at large. Staying current on the latest California Almonds news and tips is easy with Almond Board’s Almond Update, which airs every Thursday. Tune in to your local radio station each week and listen to the Specialty Crop News, or look for the Almond Update logo on the AgNet/West website to learn more about the latest in the almond industry.
RCD Interns Provide Free Irrigation Service to Growers
How This Irrigation Internship Program Delivers a Win-Win for Students and Growers — And How You Can Receive Your Free Irrigation Report A unique partnership involving academia, a local conservation district, the Almond Board of California (ABC) and the industry it represents is equipping the next generation of water professionals to develop real-world skills while providing almond growers useful information about their orchards’ irrigation systems. For several years, the East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District (ESRCD) has offered farmers a free mobile irrigation lab service, one of the many voluntary technical assistance programs designed to help farmers meet their conservation and production goals. The mobile lab consists of an in-field irrigation system evaluation, which includes an assessment of distribution uniformity, pressures and application and flow rates. This information is then compiled in a report that provides site-specific recommendations for system improvements and best practices, a practical and cost-effective tool for farmers located in ESRCD territory. In-class learning leads to in-field growth Modesto Junior College (MJC) students install media filters at the Irrigation Technology facility. (Source: MJC’s Irrigation Technology Facebook page) This year, a team of four student interns headed-up ESRCD’s mobile irrigation lab service. Interestingly, though not coincidentally, they all had one connection in common — Steve Amador, professor in the Agriculture & Environmental Sciences department at Modesto Junior College (MJC). “I was asked to present at a Resource Conservation District board meeting a few years back. They had an open internship position and it fell together,” said Amador, who also serves as the faculty advisor for the Irrigation Technology program at MJC. “They’ve been hiring MJC students ever since, and we have three working there now, along with an MJC graduate.” The partnership between MJC and ESRCD seems like a perfect fit. Amador oversees the first and only post-secondary program in California that offers an Associate of Science degree in Irrigation Technology. This means his students are trained in the fundamentals of irrigation system design and performance, field skills readily applicable for the services provided by ESRCD’s mobile irrigation lab. Students attend an irrigation pump lab at the MJC Irrigation Technology Facility. (Credit: Steve Amador) “Everything is done with students in mind,” said Amador. He notes that the internship program is a continuation of the hands-on learning students gain while earning their degree. Industry demand inspires collegiate program The groundwork for MJC’s Irrigation Technology program dates back approximately ten years. Amador recalls teaching his first irrigation class and working with agricultural irrigation professionals and farmers when he soon learned that demand was off-the-charts for graduates who specialized in irrigation. Specifically, there was demand for individuals with more advanced skills but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree in engineering. “We realized there was nothing in between the engineer level and those with basic skills,” said Amador. “Our A.S. degree fills that gap, preparing students for success and providing industry with skilled talent.” East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District interns Samantha Webb (left) and Amanda Chaney (center) record irrigation testing results with the Almond Board’s Spencer Cooper (right). Almond Board provides in-field support, program funding Spencer Cooper, senior manager of irrigation and water efficiency at the Almond Board, is a member of MJC’s Irrigation Technology advisory committee, which provides industry guidance and feedback on the program. He has also witnessed the value almond growers and students receive from the MJC-ESRCD partnership, and the guidance they receive while conducting irrigation testing in almond orchards. Webb and Chaney measure sprinkler emitter output to ensure uniformity across the irrigation system. “ABC has been a proponent of local conservation district programs that help growers improve efficiency, save costs and conserve resources, such as the mobile irrigation lab,” said Cooper. “When you add in the fact that the field testing and data collection is being done by students interested in irrigation, it’s a win-win. They are sharpening their skills and growers are getting valuable results about the performance of their irrigation systems.” Cooper notes that Resource Conservation Districts across California offer similar free or low-cost technical assistance programs, and he encourages growers to contact their local districts this winter to learn more about these opportunities. Growers interested in learning more about irrigation optimization can contact Cooper to learn about ABC’s Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum, a comprehensive manual of irrigation management and scheduling practices that range from fundamental to advanced management levels. For more information, visit Almonds.com/Irrigation or contact Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 604-3727. Meet the East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District interns Samantha Webb A native of Oakdale, Samantha has one semester left at MJC before earning her degree. At age 18, Samantha started beekeeping, commuting from Montana to Oakdale every six months and raising queen bees for the next ten years before returning to school to study agriculture. Samantha said the environmental science class at MJC “got her hooked,” and she knew she wanted to be involved in agriculture through a career related to power, solar or water. After meeting Steve Amador, she discerned her area of focus, and this past summer she went on to serve as the lead full-time intern for ESRCD, conducting system pressure tests and writing “Irrigation Evaluation & Conservation Assessment” reports for growers. After going “full throttle” with the irrigation program at MJC and interning at ESRCD, Samantha plans to continue working in the industry, noting that she enjoys designing irrigation systems. Amanda Chaney Growing up in Murphys, Amanda did not start out with a background in agriculture, and it wasn’t until she became an active FFA member that she “fell in love with ag.” Water polo brought her to MJC, and it was a water class that peaked her interest in irrigation work. With her third year at MJC completed, Amanda has two classes left to earn her Irrigation Associates Degree. Amanda believes the internship with ESRCD has provided a “wonderful work experience” where she is able to learn something new every day and branch out with her professional development. She plans on finishing school before making career decisions. Brad Borges Brad’s passion for agriculture in the Central Valley started with his active involvement in the Hughson 4-H club and FFA chapter. After majoring in mechanized agriculture at MJC, Brad went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Systems Management from Texas A&M and was recently accepted to the University of Arkansas for a master’s degree in Agriculture Education and Extension. While performing irrigation evaluations for ESRCD, Brad was responsible for testing 10- to 20-acre areas of almond orchards and using pressure and flow readings to estimate drainage and runoff for weekly reports. Spending time in the field with almond growers and presenting them with useful data provided a “really rewarding experience,” according to Brad. He hopes the knowledge and hands-on experience gained from the internship will help assist him with improving the agriculture industry in a hands-on capacity. Adriana Langarica A Chico native, Adriana’s interest in irrigation started in high school. She recently graduated from MJC with an associate degree in Irrigation Technology, with the ESRCD internship providing an excellent opportunity to apply her skills directly. Adriana’s experience through the internship gave her a chance to help growers make improvements to their systems in real time. By alerting almond growers to issues with their pump systems and providing important data on pressure and flow, Adriana’s valuable information saved growers water, energy and costs. Adriana hopes to use this experience as a learning tool for a future career in the irrigation industry. She is also interested in using her irrigation background as a starting point for a career as a high school agriculture instructor.
2015 Almond Achievement Award Goes to Jim Jasper
Jim Jasper was recognized with the 2015 Almond Achievement Award for his lifetime of work on behalf of the California Almond industry at the Almond Conference Gala Dinner, held Dec. 10 in Sacramento. Jasper is deeply rooted in agriculture. In 1948, a time when almond production was relatively unheard of in California, his father recognized the potential of California Almonds as a West Side crop. Since then, Stewart & Jasper gradually expanded and has become an integrated operation involving thousands of producing acres as well as hulling, shelling and processing facilities, and markets almonds through both wholesale and retail channels. Through it all, Jasper has made service to the industry a priority, dedicating more than 15 years to the efforts and vision for the industry. He has been very active with Almond Board of California (ABC), serving on multiple committees and task forces as follows: Environmental Committee Rule Task Force Established Markets Subcommittee Information and Research Committee Aflatoxin and Control Task Force Quality Control/Food Quality and Safety Committee Public Relations and Advertising Committee In addition, Jasper has been committed to sharing the industry’s story as a spokesperson and a host, giving countless interviews and tours. He’s been a gracious host to multiple international and high-level guests, offering his orchard and facility for tours by North America health professionals and Chinese media groups. He never turns down an interview request, eagerly sharing his expertise and knowledge and correcting misinformation in the media. “Jim and his family have been phenomenal ambassadors for the California Almond industry, hosting numerous groups of health professionals, media and other stakeholders through the years,” said Molly Spence, regional director of North America, Almond Board of California. “Jim helps them understand the industry in his own authoritative and kindly way, and we’ve been so grateful to him for not only his valuable time, but also for his special touch.” Every year since 2011, the Almond Achievement Award has honored an industry or allied industry member who has added value to the California Almond industry through long-term service, contributions or innovations. Past Almond Achievement Award recipients include Ned Ryan, Martin Pohl, Joe MacIlvaine and Dave Baker. Nominations for the Almond Achievement Award are accepted between August and October every year.
Almond Orchard 2025 Goals — Do Consumers Care?
Since the Almond Board of California (ABC) Board of Directors approved the Almond Orchard 2025 Goals last summer, ABC has been hard at work sharing the goals within the industry and helping industry members understand what they can do to move the needle in achieving them. What began with an industry-wide introduction to the goals late last summer progressed to a full-blown rollout at the 2018 Almond Conference in December, as attendees had the opportunity to take a deeper dive into the four goal areas: water use, harvest dust, pest management and zero waste from the orchard. With the industry informed, inspired and ready to make progress toward the goals, the Almond Board felt it was time to share the goals with another group important to our success — consumers. “Certainly, the goals help us align as an industry to make sure we’re all headed in the same direction, but they also have value outside of our industry,” said Daren Williams, senior director, Global Communications for ABC. “They provide a powerful platform for us to communicate to the world about our industry’s journey — to reinforce our commitment to sustainability and continuous improvement.” Before launching the goals publicly, the Almond Board conducted consumer research to gauge their reaction to the goals. Consumer feedback was encouraging — almond lovers wanted to learn more — indicating that broad consumer communications about the goals and the almond industry’s continuous improvement efforts would be well received. The zero waste goal resonated particularly well with consumers, many of whom are also working to reduce waste in their own lives by reducing, reusing and recycling. ““The consumers we met with appreciated the idea of industries setting goals and being transparent about them,” Williams said. “They really do care about how we grow almonds and want to feel good about the food choices they make.” A live focus group shared their perceptions of almonds in front of nearly one thousand people at the 2018 Almond Conference. Those who attended The Almond Conference in December had an opportunity to see that same feedback in real-time as the ABC team hosted a live focus group on day two of the conference. Four consumers bravely walked on stage in front of nearly a thousand people, knowing only that they were at a food industry meeting and that they would be asked to openly share their perspectives about the food they buy. During the group’s discussion, each consumer was asked questions about food in general and then about the almond industry, specifically. Across the consumer panel, all had positive things to say about almonds as a healthy, nutritious snack and were genuinely impressed with the industry’s efforts to improve practices in specific goal areas. “The live focus group at The Almond Conference was one of the most talked-about presentations on the agenda,” said Danielle Veenstra, communications manager at ABC. “It’s easy for all of us to get caught up in our day-to-day operations but hearing directly from consumers about how they view the almond industry and the values they have around their food choices was enlightening. I think it helped many people see how our goals serve a purpose outside of our industry.” The Almond Board will continue to communicate with consumers about the goals and efforts made by the industry to achieve them through various channels, including blog posts, social media, news articles, videos and publications. Consumer communications stress the industry’s careful and responsible resource management, ongoing efforts to grow almonds in better, safer and healthier ways, the value of the industry to California and our continued focus on innovation. Response to the public release of the goals so far has been strong, and positive. Several news outlets have covered the story in its first week, including the Turlock Journal, the Stockton Record and even Prepared Foods, an outlet focused on food industry news and trends. To learn more about the goals, go to Almonds.com/Goals.
Regional CASP Workshops Coming to a Locale Near You
A three-part series of sustainability1 workshops, part of the California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP), will bring forth tools, techniques and strategies to assist industry members in meeting current needs and taking advantage of future opportunities. Starting mid-March, the first series will focus on Almond Board of California tools to ease irrigation and nitrogen-budgeting compliance pressures. Industry experts will review the following topics: Using CASP online tools to meet your growing needs Nitrogen calculator, mapping, irrigation Water use efficiency in the 22nd century Irrigation scheduling and infrastructure Presented by UC farm advisors, specialists and private-sector experts Available incentive programs Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) EQIP and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), among others. Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) updates Nitrogen management plans, farm evaluation surveys These regional workshops will be held in Tulare on March 15, Modesto on March 16, and Chico on March 18. Part two of the series of workshops will feature pest management, and part three will focus on dust management, renewable energy and incentives. Look for more details in future articles. All workshops are free to attend and include a complimentary lunch. Attendees are encouraged to bring laptops, tablets or other electronic devices to demo tools on-site. To RSVP, please contact Rebecca Bailey at email@example.com or call (209) 343-3245. 1. Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious and safe food product.
International Ag Minds Convene in CA Central Valley, Tour Almond Facility
Collaboration between different California agricultural commodities tends to happen organically, on a both a farmer-to-farmer and commodity-to-commodity level. However, all too often perpetual busyness and continued responsibilities maim larger entities’ ability to take time to share their own learnings and insights from growing and processing a crop. Members of the Tetrapartite meeting visited three different crops during their time in California’s Central Valley, including Travaille and Phippen (TAP), a fully integrated almond operation in Manteca. Fortunately, the annual Tetrapartite meeting addresses that exact problem, keeping the channel of communication and idea sharing open across country lines. And, earlier this spring, the Almond Board of California (ABC) had the opportunity this host this important meeting, which was attended by 20 top agricultural minds from France, Canada, the UK and US. During the meeting, these top ag leaders convened in the heart of the Central Valley for a few days to discuss successes and failures from their own countries’ farming efforts and also to learn about the state of agriculture in California, from advancements made to innovations on the horizon. History of Tetrapartite: One Man’s Vision Come to Life According to a USDA press release published in 2015, the concept for an annual Tetrapartite meeting originated with Jacques Poly, former Director General of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA). Poly sought to learn best practices in agriculture and share ideas with other leaders and institutions conducting national research in agriculture. After sharing this concept with key leaders in Canada, the UK and the US, Poly received interest from individuals in each country. Since then, top international ag leaders – members of government entities equivalent to USDA ARS (Agricultural Research Service) – have continued to meet every year for honest discussions about their challenges faced, solutions discovered, and visions formed for the future. Locations for their annual meeting change each year; in 2015 North Carolina hosted the meeting, allowing attendees to visit pecan farms and more. In preparation for each meeting, Tetrapartite members select a couple topics to discuss throughout their time together. This year, for the 36th annual meeting, members chose to focus on how to produce grape and tree crop systems in an ever-changing environment. Individuals from each country spent equal time discussing how their countries were managing these types of crops in an ever-evolving environment. International Ag Meets California Almonds, UK “Mind boggled” Agriculture leaders from France, Canada, the UK and US convened in the heart of the Central Valley to discuss their countries’ farming successes and failures and also to learn about the state of agriculture in California. Members of the Tetrapartite meeting visited three different crops during their time in California’s Central Valley, including Travaille and Phippen (TAP), a fully integrated almond operation in Manteca. Dave Phippen, almond grower and partner at TAP, gave members a tour of the operation’s hulling/shelling and handling facilities, answering members’ questions about how TAP maintains almond quality and the challenges of farming in an ever-changing, increasingly regulated environment. Walking through the handling facility, these top ag minds from around the world were especially impressed by the amount of automation and technology that exists at today’s almond handlers. After touring TAP, Tetrapartite members traveled to Modesto to visit the Almond Board office, where they met with ABC President and CEO Richard Waycott, Vice President Julie Adams, Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Karen Lapsley and others to learn more about ABC’s function in the California almond industry. In her discussion with members from the UK, Lapsley said they were “mind boggled” by the fact that the Almond Board is totally integrated with the industry, interacting with players throughout the supply chain – from farm to fork. This level of integration is unheard of in other countries across the world, according to Lapsley. “During our time with Tetrapartite members, we had a distinct opportunity to showcase the depth and breadth of our industry, and, in particular, to highlight our continued commitment to research in a variety of areas, from nutrition to production to consumer demand,” said Lapsley.
Save the Date: May 19 Nickels Soil Lab Field Day
The annual Nickels Soil Lab Field Day is planned for May 19 at Marine Rd. between Wildwood Rd. and California Rd. in Arbuckle. A variety of field topics will be covered, including a demonstration of equipment that completes whole-tree grinding and incorporation into the soil. There are also plans for an organic almond production meeting on the same day at the Nickels organic block.