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As Long As We Have Enough

Living and working on a conserved farm This guest column was prepared by Erin Davis on behalf of Central Valley Farmland Trust (CVFT). CVFT works with landowners and conservation partners to preserve agricultural lands in the California Central Valley for future generations. “I haven’t been anyplace that I enjoy more than here.” There is nothing but humble honesty in grower Tom Ulm’s voice, nothing but sincerity in his eyes, as he shares his adoration for the family farm that five generations of Ulms have called home. Tom’s grandfather purchased the property outside Modesto in 1943. Back then, the farm was a dairy that Tom worked on growing up. Since then, the farm has morphed from grapes and corn, to almonds and grapes, to almonds and walnuts; from one family farm, to two; from brothers, to uncles and nephews, to cousins. The farm’s rich history is proudly detailed on posters and in photographs lining a stairwell in the Ulm family home. Throughout the years, one element has never wavered: Tom’s dedication to preserving the farming lifestyle.  Tom recalls his early days of being a farm advocate with a modest chuckle. When he was mayor for a day at his high school, Tom’s platform consisted of a simple, resonant statement: “No more growth!” Later, when Tom learned he could protect the family farm from city growth with an easement, he encouraged his father to pursue this route. Much to Tom’s dismay, his father, Bill, wasn’t convinced. That is, until a friend of Bill’s placed an easement on his nearby farm– then, said Tom, “all of a sudden it’s a good idea!” In 2011, that good idea became an agricultural conservation easement protecting the Ulm’s 151 acres of prime farmland. Tom and his wife Irene rest easy knowing that the family farm is safe, regardless of whose hands it is in.  “We would definitely recommend [an easement] if you’re living in an area like we are,” said Irene. The Ulms want to “keep town as far away as we can,” Tom adds, “because right now the possibility is that it will reach our driveway.”  Tom and Irene are hopeful that more of their neighbors will move to permanently protect their farms. “We’ve had friends that have sold to development; we’ve seen what it does to them,” said Tom. He also noted, “Money doesn’t do anybody any good – as long as we have enough to survive.” Before placing an easement, they advise their fellow farmers to “look far down the road.”  “If you want to keep it there for your kids and grandkids,” protecting the farm with an easement is “the ideal thing to do,” said Tom. When asked whether the easement protecting his farm has impacted how he farms, a typically talkative Tom struggled to find an answer. “We’re farming anyway,” he said, “so it hasn’t.” He is almost amused by our annual visits to ensure the farm is still a farm, in compliance with the protective easement. To this man, whose idea of a good vacation is avoiding snakes at an Australian almond conference, doing anything other than farming his land is practically inconceivable. Over the years, Tom’s crops, and the technology he uses to grow them, have evolved. He fondly points out that an old tractor, once featured in a newspaper photo accompanying an article on the family, is now enjoying its retirement next to the relatively new barn. Constructed of repurposed shipping containers, the barn is itself an innovation, as is the equipment it holds. After fifteen years of monitoring water conditions with digital in-ground probes, last year the Ulms moved to using a pressure chamber to sense moisture in leaves. Getting a more direct picture of the trees’ state has allowed Tom to be more strategic in his watering practices. Today, Tom is happy to be on the land he loves, with the family he loves, doing a job he loves. “It’s a world all its own,” he said. “Living out here is not like the rest of the world.” And he wouldn’t have it any other way. The decision to protect your land with a conservation easement is significant. It will impact (forever) future generation’s use of the land. For more information, contact the Central Valley Farmland Trust at (916) 687-3178 or visit ValleyFarmLand.org.
Newsletter
Dec 01, 2017 // About the Farmers, About the Almond Industry

School Rule Will Limit Sprays During School Hours, Standardize Reporting

A new rule aimed at reducing pesticide exposure to children takes effect on Jan. 1, 2018. The regulation prohibits any pesticide applications within one-quarter mile of schools and day care centers Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., depending on the type of application: Covered application methods include airblast, aircraft, sprinkler chemigation, certain dusts or powders and fumigants (both pre-plant and post-harvest). Groundrig applications have a 25-foot buffer requirement. The rule applies to public schools and certain licensed day care facilities, but not to private schools or family day care homes. The buffer zones apply to the outer edge of school property as well as nearby parks, if regularly used for school purposes. Growers will be required to provide annual notification of pesticide applications they plan to make between July 1 of that year through June 30 of the following year to schools within one-quarter mile of the orchard, regardless of method of application. The list of the pesticides’ active ingredients and adjuvants is to be submitted to the principal of the school/head of the day care center as well as to the County Agricultural Commissioner’s office. The deadline for this notice is April 30 of each year. If a grower seeks to apply a pesticide not on the list to an orchard impacted by the rule, school sites should be informed at least 48 hours prior to their use. Based on an Almond Board of California-funded analysis, between 15,000 and 46,000 acres of almonds (730 to 2,500 orchards) could be affected by the rule, depending on the outer boundary of the school property. The Almond Alliance of California submitted comments last year outlining concerns. Comments focused on the lack of any additional health risks that would be addressed under the new guidelines and the creation of a new standard of “concern” as a driver for the proposed rule, rather than a risk assessment. Existing federal, state and local regulations on pesticides are in place to ensure public protection. As the Almond Alliance noted, “there are extensive risk assessments and risk mitigation requirements based on stringent scientific standards that registrants already follow, and growers implement, costing hundreds of millions of dollars for compliance. This rule harms the whole foundation of any chemical regulatory process – whether pesticides, human or veterinary drugs, or food additives.” Additionally, there was disagreement with the calculation that the regulations would have limited agronomic and economic impacts. As an example, there is a very narrow window during bloom for fungicide sprays as growers must work between rain storms when the ground is sufficiently dry. It was noted that up to 25% of a crop could be lost from missing just one bloom spray. View the full text of the Almond Alliance’s comments online. For more information, visit California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s webpage: Pesticide Use Near Schoolsites. Applicators are also encouraged to contact their County Agricultural Commissioner with questions or for additional information.
Newsletter
Dec 01, 2017 // Orchard Management

Changing Rules for Chlorpyrifos Pesticide Applications

Growers planning to use chlorpyrifos (Lorsban) will face a significant new restriction on its use. Due to concerns about adverse effects of chlorpyrifos on children, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) has released recommended permit conditions for chlorpyrifos that would require application setback distances from sensitive sites of up to 500 feet. The distance of the buffer to a sensitive site varies by the method of application, whether airblast or aerial, and the amount applied. The Interim Directive has been distributed to County Agricultural Commissioners. Therefore, when using chlorpyrifos, restricted material permit conditions should be confirmed with the local Ag Commissioner, as they may have changed. The chlorpyrifos recommendations are interim, pending completion of a review of this pesticide’s potential listing as a Toxic Air Contaminant. The recommendations are aimed at minimizing bystander exposure and offsite movement of chlorpyrifos during applications and reducing runoff after application. Sensitive locations are areas frequented by non-occupational bystanders (especially children) and include “residential lawns, pedestrian sidewalks, outdoor recreational areas such as school grounds, athletic fields, parks and all property associated with buildings occupied by humans for residential or commercial purposes,” according to CDPR’s Revised Interim Permit Conditions. Specific examples are homes, farmworker housing, other residential buildings, schools, daycare centers, nursing homes and hospitals. Non-residential agricultural buildings, including barns, livestock facilities and sheds, are not included in the prohibition. The interim permit conditions were released on the same day as public comments were due on the potential listing of chlorpyrifos as a Toxic Air Contaminant, drawing concern in comments from the Almond Alliance of California. Comments from the Almond Alliance addressed the use of epidemiological data in the assessment. They also noted the important role of chlorpyrifos as part of a broad Integrated Pest Management (IPM) tool kit. This was well documented in a report funded by CDPR, Identifying and Managing Critical Uses of Chlorpyrifos Against Key Pests of Alfalfa, Almonds, Citrus and Cotton.
Newsletter
Dec 01, 2017 // Orchard Management

Winter Sanitation is Key to Combating Navel Orangeworm

Halloween has come and gone, but almond growers should still be concerned about mummies: mummy nuts, that is. Navel orangeworm (NOW) damage is higher this year than it’s been in more than a decade, reducing almond quality and posing a health threat. Mummy nuts left in the orchard provide the overwintering link from one season to the next for NOW, and removing them from your trees and destroying the orangeworm within them is the objective of winter sanitation to combat this pest.  While winter sanitation is important every year, it is even more vital this year, with rejection from NOW damage estimated at more than 2% for the 2017 almond harvest. The goal is to keep this rejection below the 2% level and strive for 1% or less, according to Almond Board of California, so there is a serious concern about almond quality this year. The concern reaches beyond quality; NOW opens the door and promotes fungal infections and contamination. Research shows the Aspergillus mold and the aflatoxin contaminant it produces is associated with reject kernels, and there is a synergy between the NOW and this mold. Aflatoxin produced by Aspergillus mold is a known carcinogen and mutagen. A major concern for tree crop industries, including almonds, is stringent tolerances for aflatoxin contamination in key export markets. NOW bores into the kernel meat and feeds on it after hull split, creating pores that can leave the nut vulnerable to Aspergillus molds once they are shaken to the ground. Aspergillus molds cause aflatoxins, which is a major food safety concern, because it is potentially carcinogenic to humans. NOW Risk Factors The potential for migrating moths could greatly increase your risk of NOW infestations. Adult moths are strong fliers and scavengers that can subsist on almost anything. Previously, Almond Board-funded research told us that if your orchards were within one-quarter of a mile of an infestation source, then your risk increased, but new research indicates that having almonds within even three miles of an infestation source increases your risk. Pistachios are not the only neighboring nuts that can pass along migrating moths. NOW can pass from almond orchard to almond orchard if too many mummies have been left behind. Every almond grower should implement winter sanitation practices to prevent the spread of NOW to neighboring orchards. Additional risk factors shared by Jhalendra Rijal, area IPM advisor, UCCooperative Extension, include keeping in mind the history of infestation of your orchard, the infestation rate of the mummy nuts as well as the number of mummies and considering if the winter weather is dry and favorable for NOW breeding. Almond Board of California funded a NOW prediction calculator developed by Joel Siegel (USDA, ARS) and entomologist Brad Higbee that can help you determine your level of infestation risk. NOW Management Winter sanitation, which is the foundation of a NOW pest management program, puts you ahead of the NOW population and the resulting threat of aflatoxin. The two cultural practices that provide the most effective control of NOW include: 1.  Winter sanitation: Removal of mummy nuts by shaking and or poling – those nuts that remain on the tree after harvest and are harborage for NOW – is fundamental and the most effective control method. Shake the trees, again, after pick-up to remove remaining mummy nuts. The goal is to have fewer than two mummies per tree before bud swell, around February 1. In the San Joaquin Valley, where there is little winter rain, trees should be cleaned to fewer than one mummy per tree. This might require hand poling to achieve.       Wet and foggy weather conditions help nuts come off the trees more easily. Do not let overly wet weather stop you from completing sanitation. This was the case in 2016 and contributed to the high percentage of NOW damage this season. An added benefit is that wet orchard floors and cover vegetation can increase NOW overwintering mortality rates.       Mummies should be destroyed once they are on the orchard floor with flail mowing by March 15. Mid-March is when the NOW life cycle begins again.     2.  Early harvest: While harvesting early is something that will need to be considered for next season, it is still important to plan for it. Almond Board-funded studies show that about 30 days after hullsplit of the first maturing varieties (typically Nonpareil), there is an explosive flight of NOW. This is due to the excellent new food sources they have available in the new nut crop once the hulls open. So, it is wise to harvest as soon as possible after nuts are mature – when 95% of nuts are at hullsplit at the 6- to 8-foot level of the tree canopy.     As a result of Almond Board and other research funding and efforts, there is a new biological approach to reducing aflatoxin potential in almonds that will be available in the 2018 season. The orchard is “seeded” by applying AF 36 branded as Prevail to the orchard floor. The AF 36 is a non-toxin forming strain of Aspergillus flavus and displaces the naturally occurring toxin forming strains of the fungus present in the orchard. This agent has shown a reduction in toxic Aspergillus strains in the soils of pistachio orchards. It is available to use for the first time during the late 2018 spring period and Almond Board advisories on its use will be forthcoming. To learn more about winter sanitation and controlling navel orangeworm, visit almonds.com/pests and UC IPM website. Click on the Year-Round IPM Program for Almonds, then click on Navel Orangeworm.
Newsletter
Dec 01, 2017 // Orchard Management

Use Sustainability to Connect with Consumers

Dickey says she enjoys sharing the agriculture story, especially with consumers, and says CASP helps the almond industry tell its story collectively. Almond grower Jennifer Dickey encourages others in the industry to use sustainability as a tool to share her family’s farming story with consumers  On an average day during almond harvest, Jennifer Dickey can be seen lining up harvest crews, ordering parts for a downed sweeper or fixing a hydraulic line on a box scraper. Dickey knows every square inch of the 200 acres of almonds and walnuts she manages for the family’s CR Orchards in Stanislaus County near Turlock, Calif. Her parents, Caroline and Randy Dickey are still involved in the farming business, but Jennifer in recent years has taken over most of the daily operations, along with 35 acres she farms on her own nearby and custom farming operations on an additional 200 outside acres. In that time, Dickey has enrolled much of the acreage in the Almond Board’s California Almond Sustainability Program[1], and plans to enroll her newly planted 20-acre block of Independence almonds on double-line drip. Having an intimate understanding of the day-to-day farming operations made entering data into the program’s nine modules relatively easy. A graduate of Blue Diamond and ABC’s Leadership Programs, Dickey said she enjoys sharing her farming story with others, particularly the urban audience who is not connected to agriculture. “I love learning and I love public speaking; I think it’s fun,” she said. “But mostly I like telling the story about agriculture. These are your consumers and if you want people to be passionate about what you do, you have to explain it to them.” Participation in CASP, she said, helps the almond industry collectively tell its story. “It’s an easy way for farmers to educate people without dealing directly with those people, because the Almond Board can take that information out and educate them for you.” The recent drought helped illustrate the importance of having data in a time of crisis. “ABC had proof during that water crisis about what almond growers were doing to implement water conservation,” she said. “The Almond Board has to have facts to back that up and CASP gives those facts to them.” The California Almond Sustainability Program documents the almond community’s efforts to adopt cost-effective environmentally and socially responsible practices. Confidential information through grower and handler self-assessments of current practices is aggregated for use in communications, education and continuous improvement. A new pump, well and double-line drip irrigation system will help Dickey continue to improve sustainability on the newly planted 20-acre block of Independence almonds. Dickey estimates it recently took less than half a day to do all nine self-assessment modules on her 15-acre block. The process, she said, helped her reflect on her current practices, compare to other growers in her area and around the state, and find potential areas of improvement. “I like to read the questions and see what I am doing in comparison to other growers,” Dickey said. The online CASP system also offers interactive tools, including a nitrogen calculator and mapping tool to develop nitrogen budgets and help meet Nitrogen Management Plan requirements of the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program. An irrigation calculator also helps develop irrigation schedules on individual blocks. Dickey regularly relies on pressure chamber readings, collected by a seasonally hired college student, along with flow meters and CIMIS station readings to establish irrigation set timing and duration. Filling out the Energy Use module also helped her better grasp the timing of irrigating during off-peak hours so she could more efficiently run her irrigation pumps.  Completing the Nitrogen Management module on that 15-acre block helped Dickey understand that she could better account for nitrogen inputs by testing her water source and actually reduce the amount of applied N during the season. “When I went back after filling out the module, I realized I almost over-fertilized on one block because I wasn’t accounting for N in the water source,” she said. “By participating in CASP I learned we could save money and keep excess nitrogen out of the groundwater in the process.”   [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.
Newsletter
Nov 16, 2017 // Environmental Sustainability, Orchard Management

Support FFA This Holiday Season

With The Almond Conference taking place Dec. 5-7, the timing is perfect to do some early holiday shopping and, at the same time, support a great cause. Both a live and silent auction with a variety of items will benefit the California FFA Foundation. A huge thank-you goes out to the following companies that have committed to supporting the California FFA Foundation through their generous donation to this year’s silent and live auctions. Check out these donors and the items you will see at The Almond Conference, so you can be ready to get your bid on! Live Auction For the second year, a live auction will be held during the annual Gala Dinner on Thursday, Dec. 7. Attendees will have the chance to bid on these items: Pacific Atlantic Crop Exchange: 4 San Francisco Giants tickets behind home plate Mike Kooyman: One-week Mexican vacation Sterling-Rice Group: $2,000 gift certificate to Snow.com Leo LaGrande: Duck hunting trip Noah Jacob: Private Chef dinner for 8 people Jason Jasper: Golden State Warriors lower level seat tickets NEW This Year Throughout the conference, 100 Golden Tickets will be sold. Each ticket is $100, and one lucky person will win and pick their choice of one item from the live auction. The ticket will be drawn at the Gala dinner prior to the start of the live auction. You must be present at the Gala to win! Tickets may be purchased onsite at the silent auction booth all three days of conference. Silent Auction Going on its sixth year, the silent auction will be held on the trade show floor Dec. 5 and 7. Be sure to stop by and place your bid on some fun and fantastic items: AgNet West: Petal tractor Almond Board of California (Booth 625): Toy Tractor American Ag Credit: Baldwin Minkler Farms: Titleist Pro V1 golf balls Bayer Crop Science (Booth 701): Blue Diamond: HUGE Blue Diamond Almonds gift basket Burchell Nursery (Booth 515): California Industrial Rubber: Indoor turkey fryer and peanut oil California Sweet Potato Growers: Locally grown sweet potatoes Capay Canyon Ranch: Classic Wine Vinegar: Specialty foods gift basket Cosyns Farms: Honey Disneyland: 4 Disneyland one-day park hopper tickets DoubleTree by Hilton (Modesto): One-night Dream Deal Duarte Nursery (Booth 1033): Poinsettia gift certificates Gallo Center for the Arts: Comedian Chad Prather tickets GAR Tootelian (Booth 610): Yeti Cooler with GAR Gear Gerber Kawasaki: $500 financial planning consultation gift certificate Golden State Genetics: Gift basket Hilltop Ranch Inc. (Booth 513): Chainsaw and gift basket Hughson Nut, Inc.: Almond gift basket (two) Hyatt Regency Sacramento: Overnight weekend stay and breakfast for two JCS Marketing (Booth 1229): Full page ad John Deere – Belkorp Ag (Booth 1237): John Deere wagon Lincoln Financial Agribusiness Services (Booth 903): Mallvinder Kahal: Better Butter Almond Butter Mamta: Semi-precious stone jewelry set Modesto Nuts: Modesto Nuts swag and 4 tickets Mosaic Event Management, Inc.: 2 Tickets to Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Motomco: 8 buckets of TomCat ground squirrel bait Netafim (Booth 1106): Yeti cooler Pacific Coast Sales: 4 San Francisco Giants tickets, club section Roberts Ferry Nut Co.: Assorted gourmet popcorn basket Satake (Booth 719) Scribe Winery: 4 Hacienda food and wine tastings Semios (Booth 705): Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel: Complimentary suite, parking and breakfast for two Stanislaus County Farm Bureau: Sue Olson: Handmade quilt Suite 52 Living Modesto: Homegoods gift basket Suterra, LLC (Booth 817): Gift basket Syngenta (Booth 621): The Balm Cosmetics: Make-up basket The Parks Group: Homemade toffee Waycott Family: Wine Wine & Roses: Bed and Breakfast gift certificate Want to commit to the future of the California ag industry and join these gracious donors? There is still time! If you’re interested in donating an item, please contact Rebecca Bailey by email or at 209.343.3245.
Newsletter
Nov 16, 2017 // About the Almond Board

FSMA Files: Produce Safety Rule Updates

Straight Talk from FSMA Advisors Elizabeth Fawell and Maile Hermida of Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP You may have heard about changes to the FDA’s calendar for the implementation of the FSMA Produce Safety rule. Yes, yet again! Most notably, the FDA has 1) proposed extending the compliance dates for the agricultural water-related requirements of the rule by 4 years and 2) delayed the start of Produce Safety rule inspections. In this month’s column, we’re breaking down what this news means for you. Update #1: You Will Likely Have More Time to Meet Produce Safety Agricultural Water Compliance Dates Why? FDA is proposing an extension to this action so it can take more time to reevaluate the feasibility and practical implications of the water standards. FDA has proposed extending the compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements as follows:[1]   Very small business ($25,000-$250,000 annual sales): January 26, 2024 Small business ($250,001-$500,000 annual sales): January 26, 2023 All other businesses (>$500,000 annual sales): January 26, 2022 Almond Board of California submitted comments in support of the proposed extension. Update #2: Produce Safety Inspections Have Been Delayed Until Spring 2019 Why? Input from farmers and state regulators has proven that more time is necessary to ensure farmers have the training and information needed to comply and that states are able to establish strong produce regulatory programs before inspections begin. Note: It’s important that farms work toward Produce Safety compliance despite this delay. Even though FDA will not be conducting routine inspections, the agency can still take action if necessary to protect public health. Still feeling confused? Almond Board of California is here to help and has developed several new resources to help you get up-to-speed on all things FSMA. Check them out on the grower (almonds.com/growers/fsma) and processor (almonds.com/processors/fsma) webpages.  Please keep your questions coming! You can send them to Tim Birmingham at tbirmingham@almondboard.com with the subject line “FSMA Files.”  This column was prepared by Elizabeth Fawell and Maile Hermida, who are lawyers with Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP in Washington, DC. The FSMA Files column is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. [1] Under the final Produce Safety rule there were two sets of compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements. FDA is proposing to simplify the compliance period structure so that all the compliance dates for these provisions occur at the same time, based on farm size.
Newsletter
Nov 16, 2017 // Quality and Food Safety

Celebrating 10 Years of Breakthroughs in Almond Quality and Food Safety

A groundbreaking mandatory pasteurization program created by Almond Board of California (ABC) and its strategic partners has supported an enviable industry-wide food safety record over the last decade. Since the program’s launch, there have been zero outbreaks of foodborne illness attributed to California Almonds. Today, more than 200 treatment processes have been validated for use on almonds following specific guidelines and review by ABC’s Technical Expert Review panel.  The almond industry initiated these efforts in the early 2000s, when Salmonella concerns were intensifying across the food industry. At the time, conventional wisdom suggested that low moisture foods, such as nuts and seeds, did not pose a threat, since the microorganisms of concern could not grow in these products. ABC engaged food safety experts, USDA and research partners to holistically identify potential risks and develop strategies to control. This collaboration ultimately resulted in the mandatory pasteurization program for Salmonella reduction and implementation of best practices, including Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) for growers and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for processors, as well as updated HACCP guidelines and Pathogen Environmental Monitoring (PEM) resources.  “The health and wellbeing of almond consumers matters deeply to everyone in the California Almond industry. We’re not afraid to tackle food safety challenges head-on, aided by the expertise of our partners, and we’re proud of our pioneering best practices,” said Tim Birmingham, director, Quality Assurance and Industry Services, Almond Board of California. “In response to concerns about Salmonella, we conducted research and led extensive discussions with industry, university and government experts before adopting mandatory pasteurization. After 10 years with zero outbreaks, we’re grateful that we took action.” From 2007 to 2017, ABC invested more than $5 million in food quality and safety research. It remains firmly committed to educating industry members on how to produce the safest and highest quality almonds possible. All findings are translated into clear, practical guidance for growers and processors. The California Almond industry is well positioned to comply with FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) because it has proactively, voluntarily created and implemented so many programs that are already in line with FSMA requirements. The Produce Safety rule under FSMA goes into effect in January 2018 for large-scale orchards or huller/shellers considered farms. Preventive Controls compliance for larger businesses began September 2016 and midsize compliance started September of this year. Visit almonds.com/processors/fsma or almonds.com/growers/fsma for tools and resources. For an infographic timeline of almond quality and safety, click here.
Newsletter
Nov 16, 2017 // Quality and Food Safety

Finding New Uses for Old Coproducts

Can almond coproducts help keep troublesome pests out of almond orchards? New research from University of California, Davis, suggests almond biomass can play a key role in pest management. As part of a research initiative funded by Almond Board of California’s Almond Biomass Working Group, UC Davis researchers sought to determine if almond hulls and shells were compatible with biosolarization technology.  “Biosolarization uses natural mechanisms to create soil conditions lethal to pests,” said Christopher Simmons, PhD, UC Davis, who conducted the research trials. “By combining heat from the sun and natural biopesticides promoted by organic matter from hulls and shells, we can eliminate pests in the soil.”  The research comes as almond production continues to climb, yet traditional outlets for hulls, shells and woody biomass are less. Recent market shifts are forcing changes to traditional uses and spurring new interest in the highest value use of each almond coproduct. The biomass project got its start in December 2016 when UC Davis researchers discussed their approach with Almond Board of California and Nicolaus Nut Company (a fallow orchard owned by Nicolaus Nut Company was proposed as a field trial site). After a feasibility study at UC Davis labs in the spring, field trials began in July 2017. “The fallow orchard, which was slated for transition to almonds from walnuts, was heavily infested with nematodes,” said Simmons. “It provided optimum conditions to test the effectiveness of almond biomass biosolarization.”  Researchers began in the field by amending almond biomass into the soil, laying a drip line on top of the soil and covering the orchard floor with a clear plastic tarp. Following this setup and then irrigating through the drip line, they created a greenhouse heating effect that helped elevate the temperature of the soil. Additionally, bacteria in the soil consumed the almond matter amended in the soil. This microbial activity—in the anaerobic environment created by the tarp covering—led to the accumulation of natural organic acids toxic to certain pests. Simmons and his colleagues will be discussing their biosolarization research findings in depth at The Almond Conference in December. They’ll also preview implications for future crop growth and orchard impact, as the biosolarization site will be planted with almond trees early next season. “Beyond pest management, keeping almond biomass in the orchard can deliver additional benefits,” said Simmons. “You’re putting all this organic matter back into the soil, which will help improve fertility, water holding capacity and microbial diversity of the soil.” To hear more about this research, register for The Almond Conference, taking place Dec. 5-7 in Sacramento. The presentation, titled “Almond Biomass: The Real, Weird and Wonderful Opportunities for Greater Utilization,” will be at 10:45-11:45 a.m. on Dec. 5 in room 308-309.
Newsletter
Nov 16, 2017 // Orchard Management
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