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ABC Partners with Largest NGO Dedicated to Pollinators
(Jan. 24, 2020) – On Jan. 14, the Almond Board of California (ABC) announced a new strategic partnership with the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the protection and promotion of pollinators and their ecosystems: the Pollinator Partnership. In partnering with the Pollinator Partnership, the Almond Board seeks to expand the number of growers who provide habitat for pollinators around their orchards and help growers get credit for the practices they already do to improve bee health. Known for their local and regional initiatives such as National Pollinator Week, Pollinator Partnership seeks to engage growers of a wide range of crops nationwide in promoting pollinator health on their operations through the Bee Friendly Farming program. Under the program, growers who meet six specific criteria are eligible to be certified as “bee friendly” and have a label recognizing their certification placed on their product. In order to best fit the needs of the California almond industry, ABC is working with Pollinator Partnership to integrate the Bee Friendly Farming program with the California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP) Bee Health and Pollination module. The goal of this initiative is to expand the number of almond growers who provide habitat for pollinators in and around their orchards, and to help growers get credit for the practices they already execute to improve bee health. "Pollinator Partnership's Bee Friendly Farming Certification 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. The Almond Board announced this new partnership as a key pillar of its Five-Point Pollinator Protection Plan, which aims to help consumers understand all the ways in which growers and the broader California almond industry strive to protect honey bee health, not only during bloom but year-round. The four additional initiatives included in the industry’s five-point plan are: educating growers and pollination stakeholders on honey bee health via the Honey Bee Best Management Practices as well as in-orchard workshops, supporting of the development and launch of the BeeWhere digital mapping tool and partnering with the California State Beekeepers Association to raise awareness of the tool, collaborating with Project Apis m. (PAm.) and other bee research organizations to encourage an increase in cover crops among almond orchards throughout California,1 and funding honey bee health research. Since 1995, the industry has funded 125 research projects to address the five major factors impacting honey bee health – varroa mites, pest and disease management, lack of genetic diversity, pesticide exposure and access to forage and nutrition. This year, alone, the industry will invest in five new studies with leading bee experts from across the U.S. “Protecting and improving honey bee health during the short time that bees are in our orchards is critical to the success of every grower,” affirmed Josette Lewis, PhD, director of Agricultural Affairs at the Almond Board. “By working with national pollinator organizations, we are also engaging with partners who impact the health of bees during the other ten months that they spend outside of almonds.” Growers interested to learn more about the CASP Bee Health and Pollination module, as well as the other eight modules in CASP, are invited to visit Almonds.com/Growers/Sustainability.  Since 2013, almond growers have planted 34,000 acres of bee pasture through Project Apis m.’s Seeds for Bees program, according to PAm. Director of Pollination Services Billy Synk. Beyond the benefits to pollinators, these plantings also help improve soil health, water infiltration and more.
New Air Quality Regulations Expected
Air quality regulations continue to percolate as local, state and federal regulators work to comply with new and existing standards for particulate matter and ozone. The state is also focused on reducing greenhouse gases. Combustion engines burning fossil fuels are the drivers of ozone, PM2.5 and greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, there is a concerted effort to rapidly move California’s economy away from fossil fuel energy, shown by the recent passage of the requirement that 50% of all energy in California must come from renewable sources by 2038. Federal Ozone Standard The San Joaquin Valley Air District and state Air Resources Board are in the midst of developing regulations to meet a federal standard of ozone set in 2008 of 75 ppm for an eight-hour average. The deadline for meeting the standard is 2016. In addition, EPA recently lowered its standard for ground-level ozone to 70 parts per billion. Compliance for the San Joaquin Valley will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. With the new standard, most of the Sacramento Valley will be out of compliance, though the exact regions and extent of noncompliance will not be known until 2017. From there, measures will be developed to bring those regions into compliance with the newer standard. PM10 Compliance The state is expected to start working on a maintenance plan for PM10 emissions under the federal Clean Air Act to meet a 2016 deadline, which could lead to some adjustments to existing rules, or even wholesale changes, to ensure compliance. The San Joaquin Valley has been out of compliance in recent years for PM10, although regulators are still working to determine the drivers surrounding the issue, which may include drought, forest fires, construction sites near air quality monitors and/or increased almond acreage. PM2.5 Implementation Plan The state is also in the process of developing a State Implementation Plan for PM2.5, to bring those emissions in the San Joaquin Valley also into compliance with the Clean Air Act. The Air Resources Board claims that “geologic dust,” or dirt dust, contributes 14% of annual PM2.5 averaged emissions. What is not clear is whether EPA has revised its assumptions that 10% of agricultural dust is PM2.5, contrary to findings in Almond Board and other research. Given the evolving standards and compliance rules around air quality issues, there are likely to be a number of public meetings on proposed regulations on both PM2.5 and ozone precursor emissions reductions. We will keep you posted in future issues of California Almonds Outlook.
EQIP Incentives Available for Cleaner Almond Harvest Equipment
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering up to three years of financial incentives through its Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) to almond and walnut growers who adopt harvest equipment shown to reduce particulate matter (dust). Eligible equipment is limited to specific harvesters proven through peer-reviewed demonstration trials at Texas A&M to reduce particulate matter by at least 30%. Trials were supported by a USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) and the San Joaquin Valley Air District, and build on years of Almond Board-funded research on reducing dust emissions at harvest. The Almond Hullers & Processors Association worked closely with NRCS to develop this funding opportunity. Growers may receive $10.52 per acre for up to three years for use of qualified harvesters. Check with your equipment dealer for information on specific models of harvesters currently covered by the program. More information about the program is available at local NRCS offices. Growers can find their nearest NRCS office by visiting the Almond Board’s Industry Resource Map and filtering for the category “NRCS.” Applications for the EQIP California Air Quality Initiative program are accepted year-round through local NRCS offices and are approved according to five yearly funding cycles. However, growers interested in this opportunity with an eye toward this year’s harvest should contact their local NRCS office as soon as possible. Listen to a recent Almond Update with NRCS’s Johnnie Sileznoff as he talks about the application process. 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.
New Resource for Managing Young Almond Orchards
Are you new to growing almonds? Did you just replant an orchard? A new publication, the “Young Orchard Handbook,” developed by University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) farm advisors and Extension specialists, looks at issues confronted in the early years of an orchard’s life and pulls together the latest in research and recommendations. Proper management of an orchard in its first five years of life is essential to optimizing orchard health, growth and yield over the life of the orchard. Tools for Informed Decisions Developed for both almonds and walnuts, this new resource gives growers the tools to make informed decisions about irrigation, fertilization, pruning and training and weed management in young orchards. Also included in the “Young Orchard Handbook” are links to additional resources for more detailed information by topic area. Katherine Pope, farm advisor for Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties, developed the handbook with input from fellow farm advisors. “There is so much information scattered over the Web these days, that finding resources to care for a young orchard can be overwhelming,” stated Pope. “This handbook pulls together a lot of that information in one place to give growers a solid grounding in the basics of early orchard management, based on decades of UC research and experience.” Other authors include Allan Fulton and David Doll, farm advisors for Tehama and Merced counties, respectively, as well as Bruce Lampinen, UCCE almond and walnut specialist, and Dr. Brad Hanson, UCCE weed specialist. The new “Young Orchard Handbook,” can be found online through the UCCE Yolo website. Several video recordings of presentations on young orchard management are also available. Topics include several of those covered in the handbook as well as management of vertebrate pests, cover crops, and pests and diseases. A 2016 revision is planned to integrate these video topics into the handbook. Funding from ABC The development of young-orchard educational materials for almond growers is supported in part by ongoing funding for local farm advisor projects from the Almond Board of California (ABC). In addition to the “Young Orchard Handbook,” other farm advisor projects supported this year include research on insect pest dynamics (Tehama); mechanical pruning and training of young trees (Stanislaus); bloom disease control trials (San Joaquin); brown marmorated stinkbug studies (Glenn/Butte/Tehama); fall nitrogen applications (Colusa/Sutter/Yuba); sodium, chloride and boron accumulation in almonds (Kern); and navel orangeworm monitoring (Sacramento Valley). Bob Curtis, ABC’s director of Agricultural Affairs, noted, “Each year, the ABC provides funding for farm advisors to conduct research and outreach projects of prime importance for the areas they serve as well as the whole almond community. ‘The Young Orchard Handbook,’ which farm advisor Katherine Pope spearheaded, is a wonderful example of the benefits of this ongoing support to Extension programs and California Almonds.”
Food Safety Meetings Help Almond Industry Gear Up for FSMA
June is the unofficial food safety month for the California Almond industry. As almond processors prepare for compliance, Almond Board of California (ABC) is providing training for Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals (PCQI), who develop and implement food safety plans and are responsible for Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Preventive Controls compliance in processing facilities. The first training session is being held June 1–3, and additional workshops will be scheduled based on interest. ABC also hosts its annual Food Quality and Safety Symposium, which highlights advancements in food safety technology. This year, the symposium is focused on FSMA as a theme, with presentations providing critical information for both growers and handlers. For growers, Dr. Linda Harris of UC Davis provides guidance on conducting an Almond Risk Assessment, which is the backbone of a food safety plan. Elizabeth Fawell, with the consulting firm Hogan Lovells, walks growers and processors through which rules apply for growers, huller/shellers, handlers and custom processors. For information on these essential food safety events, contact Jayme Puthoff at the Almond Board by email or phone (209) 343-3279. Presentations from this year’s and previous Food Quality and Safety Symposiums can be found at online.
Almonds Top Hazelnuts Among New European Products
Almonds have been the No. 1 nut in new-product introductions globally since 2006. The versatility of almonds has boosted their popularity over hazelnuts in Europe for new-product introductions. And, for the first time, thanks to their versatility, almonds have overtaken hazelnuts in Europe as the most popular nut in new-product introductions. Almond introductions grew 8% globally in 2015, according to the Innova New Products Report1, even though overall nut introductions were down 7%. Almonds continue to be a favorite for lactose-free and gluten-free products, and flavor trends include pairings with coconut and green tea. For a copy of the full report, please contact Harbinder Maan at HMaan@AlmondBoard.com. 1. Innova Market Insights, New Product Introductions Report, 2015
Untapped Opportunities — Bob Carroll, Chairman of Established Markets Subcommittee
What I love about the California Almond industry is finding untapped opportunities and working to expand consumption of almonds. We truly are helping people live wholesome lives when they increase their consumption of almonds. This is at the core of what we do in the Established Markets Subcommittee. The word “established” does not imply “mature.” Established markets — North America and Europe — are not anywhere near saturated when it comes to demand for California Almonds. Although these markets are fixed in their distribution practices and have tried-and-true uses for almonds, there is still room for growth with new categories of consumption and by giving consumers reasons to believe in the value of almonds. The U.K. is a great example. Almond Board investment turned a stagnating, ingredient-focused market into a growing snack-oriented market. Reintroducing almonds to British consumers as a snack brought growth back into the snack-nut category and opened a new long-term growth channel for California Almonds. Following a similar growth strategy as has been applied in North America — leveraging years of best practices, yet maintaining flexibility to address different consumer dynamics — is paying off in Europe. Please see the related article to learn more about the Established Markets Subcommittee, and if you’re interested in getting involved in our activities, please contact me through the Almond Board. Sincerely, Bob Carroll Chairman, Established Markets Subcommittee
Reaching Out from Almond Country to the City
Many students, and even adults, don’t realize that almonds grow on trees. Even more, they’re often unaware that California is an agricultural powerhouse. Almond Board of California (ABC) is committed to closing this gap in understanding; specifically, by educating elementary students so they can better understand where their food comes from and expand their knowledge of agriculture, the environment and natural resources. ABC has developed lesson plans that round out its educational offerings, including a video and an activity book, to elementary schools in California’s Central Valley. The lesson plans, “California Almonds: An Almond Story,” offer a unit outline for educators to teach students about the history and applications of almonds. In partnership with the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, the lesson plans are aligned with education standards for California schools, along with national Common Core standards for math, science and English. The lesson plans were designed for grades three to five and include five lessons, titled: Fact or Opinion Science and Poetry with Almonds Fun with Almond Math Almond History and Cultural Significance Nutritious Almonds Not only are the lesson plans educational, they’re also a fun, hands-on way to bring agriculture and awareness of how food is grown into the classroom. Moreover, you, as an almond grower, can help forge a personal connection with students in your community. Share the Ag in the Classroom materials with your local school and serve as a teaching guest. Given the breadth of agriculture in California, and particularly the Central Valley, many students are already tied to agriculture in some way. However, lesson plans like “California Almonds: An Almond Story” go a long way in teaching important context about food and how it’s grown, and make almonds much more than just a snack on a plate.
Speakers Explore Almond Storage Practices, Insect Resistance to Fumigants, Concealed Damage and Shelf Life at 16th Annual Food Quality and Safety Symposium
Rancidity is one of the most pressing problems affecting processors, yet there is no completely objective chemical method for determining rancidity, according to Dr. Alyson Mitchell, professor of Food Chemistry, UC Davis. Speaking at the annual Almond Board of California Food Quality and Safety Symposium, Dr. Mitchell explained that rancidity is the deterioration of oils and fats, and while peroxide values have been traditionally used as a means of determining rancidity, their values may decrease in the latter stages of oxidation and are therefore an imprecise measure of rancidity. Free fatty acids (FFAs) are also used as a measure of rancidity; however, there is no literature available that demonstrates levels of FFAs in relation to sensory aspects of almonds. In an attempt to identify a more accurate way to measure rancidity, Dr. Mitchell’s lab identified a number of candidate compounds in raw almonds, roasted almonds and almonds after storage which they proceeded to evaluate for volatile changes over time. As a result, they have identified a number of compounds that may be possible markers of rancidity down the road. This important work has paved the way for a better measure of rancidity in almonds in the future by understanding how to increase shelf life of almonds. The next phase of the project will involve correlation of the chemical markers to sensory attributes. Phosphine Resistance Dr. Sandipa Gautam, postdoctoral research associate, and Dr. George Opit, assistant professor of Stored Product Entomology, Oklahoma State University, presented their work on insect resistance to phosphine. Understanding the resistance of almond insects to phosphine is critical in order to develop practical strategies for insect control. Current work has shown that there are adult populations of red flour beetle in California that are showing some levels of phosphine resistance. The good news is that current label rates are still effective at killing the most resistant adult red flour beetle populations in their studies. In addition, they have determined discriminatory doses of phosphine for red flour beetle eggs and Indian meal moth eggs and larvae. These doses are also less than the recommended label dosage currently specified. However, in order to prove that phosphine remains an effective tool, we may want to consider future studies involving additional insect populations. We may also want to spend more time trying to better understand why we are seeing phosphine resistance in some red flour beetle populations and not others so that we can better address down the road phosphine resistance management strategies. Concealed Damage and Stockpile Management The Almond Board’s Bob Curtis, associate director of Agricultural Affairs, shared key strategies related to stockpile management in order to reduce the potential for mold growth and aflatoxin development in stockpiled nuts. Curtis said that controlling moisture of the nuts is one of the key factors to consider when stockpiling. Specifically, nuts should not be stockpiled if either the hull moisture content exceeds 12%, the in-shell kernel moisture content exceeds 6%, or the total fruit (in-hull almond) moisture content exceeds 9%. Furthermore, selection of tarp material and orientation of the stockpile can minimize moisture hot spots within the stockpile. The ideal is a white tarp or white on black tarp on stockpiles with a north/south orientation, which will help minimize condensation problems. These guidelines and more are covered in the new stockpile management guidelines for growers and stockpile management guidelines for processors. Dr. Alyson Mitchell returned to the podium to provide an update on a project to evaluate concealed damage formation in almonds. Results show that natural kernel moisture levels above 8% influence concealed damage formation, dependent on the time kernels stayed at that moisture and the temperature during storage. Almonds at less than 6% moisture were not susceptible to concealed damage formation. At this point, a key take-away is that almonds received at moistures exceeding 6% are susceptible to concealed damage formation and should be dried to less than 6%. Influencers on Almond Shelf Life Food Science and Technology Associate Professor Dr. Ron Pegg, University of Georgia, reviewed a research study currently underway to examine how factors such as temperature, humidity and packaging impact shelf life and sensory attributes of almonds. This type of work is especially important as the industry continues to ship larger quantities of almonds that have been stored for an extended period of time. Findings to date show that higher storage temperatures lead to more rapid almond degradation. Almonds stored in non-lined cardboard boxes, particularly at higher humidity, will absorb more water and have decreasing levels of desirable flavor volatiles as well as textural issues. Dr. Pegg stressed that relative humidity plays a significant role in raw almonds. If they are not properly packaged and are exposed to high humidity, they will have a dramatically reduced shelf life. The study has shown that packaging with a polyethylene liner can lead to a longer shelf life in roasted product stored at varying levels of humidity. A key take-home is to make sure you understand both the conditions in which you store your product as well as the conditions where it will be shipped, and package accordingly! Food Safety Crystal Ball After spending several months with the FDA on sabbatical from UC Davis, Dr. Linda Harris, UC Cooperative Extension, Department of Food Science and Technology related that when it comes to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) there are still some unknowns. We don’t yet know if almonds are in or out of the Produce Safety Rule, we don’t yet know where hullers will fall, she said. However, there is a lot we do know, and as Dr. Harris pointed out, the California Almond industry is in a good position, given its focus on food safety since 2001. Under the Preventive Controls Rule, the industry will need to continuously address food safety programs and make updates based on data and research. Dr. Harris advises that the industry should also look at external pressures on food safety such water issues and pest or disease pressure. And it is important that the industry not only look at updating and evaluating currently accepted pasteurization technologies, but also at new technologies. This is important for maintaining our leadership in the low moisture industry. Dr. Harris also reported on findings from a study that looked at pathogen contamination from adjacent animal operations. The study did not show that there is concern for almond orchards that are in close proximity to animal operations. Finally, Dr. Harris pointed out that the industry should keep the prevalence level and concentration of pathogen levels on almonds low by focusing on the food safety program continuum from the orchard to processing. Formal presentations from the 2014 Symposium are now available.
Winter Sanitation Essential to Food Safety
Of the many postharvest food safety programs developed by Almond Board of California (ABC) and implemented by almond processors, just as important is orchard winter sanitation carried out by almond growers. Winter sanitation involves the removal and destruction of mummy nuts to prevent overwintering populations of navel orangeworm, the primary insect pest in almonds. NOW is a dual threat to crop quality: In addition to the direct damage NOW causes the kernel, this damage can open the door to fungal infections and contaminants, particularly Aspergillus spp. and the aflatoxin contaminant it produces. Aflatoxin, a known carcinogen and mutagen, is regulated globally, meaning that in-orchard management of NOW is essential, in addition to being the first and best step to prevent contamination from occurring. Cultural Control of NOW A well-balanced NOW management program includes a variety of steps, all of which can be found on the UC IPM website. One of the most important steps, however, is cultural control through winter sanitation, which reduces overwintering NOW populations. According to standard recommendations, mummy nuts should be reduced to an average of two or fewer per tree by Feb. 1, and mummies on the ground should be destroyed by flail mowing by March 15. However, mummy thresholds can vary by region due to climatic differences, and by year if limited rainfall or continued drought is an issue. For instance, in the drier southern almond-growing region, mummy thresholds are lower than the current standard due to more ideal NOW overwintering conditions, while the wetter northern growing region has a higher threshold because rainfall is a dominant NOW mortality factor. NOW Predictor A model developed by Wonderful Orchards entomologist Brad Higbee and USDA Agricultural Research Service, Parlier, researcher Joel Siegel predicts NOW damage for the drier southern region based on different winter sanitation and harvest-timing scenarios. This model can be found at Almonds.com/NOWPredictor. Even though this version is specific to the southern San Joaquin Valley, it underscores and reaffirms a number of long-standing basics: in particular, that sanitation — removal and destruction of both tree and ground mummies — is a priority. After this, harvest timing — early versus later — is important. Other factors that have an impact on NOW damage include the previous year’s NOW damage, peach twig borer damage during the current season, and in the southern San Joaquin Valley, proximity to pistachios, which harbor higher NOW populations.