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Chocolate and Almonds: Consumer Preferences Revealed

The Almond Board of California (ABC) fielded its first global chocolate study in 2010, collecting consumer data regarding chocolate and nut attitudes, usage and preferences. This information has been successfully leveraged in ABC marketing and PR campaigns directed toward manufacturers and food professionals. Results from a repeat of the study in 2013 will be used to update and expand what was learned in 2010. The main objectives are to understand chocolate attitudes and usage in key markets and to assess preferences in chocolate relative to nuts and other ingredients globally. Globally, the research found that chocolate is eaten about 11 times per month, with the highest consumption coming from France. Also, milk chocolate is the most popular type of chocolate; either plain, with nuts or even some type of filling. Dark chocolate, like milk chocolate, has a strong following, too. Consumers love nuts in their chocolate: According to the recent Global Chocolate study,* nearly two-thirds of these respondents believe that nuts make chocolate products crunchier, more nutritious and more filling. Almonds also bring a wide variety of nutritional benefits to chocolate. A jointly funded study between ABC and The Hershey Company is evaluating the independent and additive effects of dark chocolate and almonds on heart disease risk factors of 40 healthy, non-smoking, overweight and obese men and women aged 21–70 years with moderately elevated LDL cholesterol. Dark chocolate and cocoa contain epicatechin and proanthocyanidins, flavanols that exert beneficial effects on vascular function. Both almonds and chocolate have shown important heart health benefits; however, the additive and or synergistic effects of almonds and dark chocolate/cocoa have not been investigated. Currently, 20 subjects are enrolled in the study, with a projected completion period of summer 2014. *Source: Global Perceptions Study; Sterling-Rice Group, 2013 Good news about almonds and heart health. Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. One serving of almonds (28g) has 13g of unsaturated fat and only 1g of saturated fat.
Feb 11, 2014 // About the Almond Board

Work Together to Make Progress on Water Policy

When it comes to California water policy, “the impulse in the state of California has been to throw money at water, hoping or wishing that something miraculous will occur, thus solving our current and future dilemmas related to supply,” said Phil Isenberg in a keynote speech on water policy delivered at The Almond Conference in December. Isenberg is a 50-year veteran of state politics and serves as chair of the Delta Stewardship Council. Isenberg noted history has a way of repeating itself. He related the perspective of a Roman general who was tasked with being water master in Rome in the days of the Caesars. The general recorded that people were using water ineffectively and inefficiently, using water they didn’t pay for, and fighting over apportionment of existing supplies as opposed to competing uses. California has had very similar ongoing struggles over its water supply resources throughout the entirety of its history, Isenberg said. Isenberg said he believes understanding the state’s current water challenges requires an understanding of some fundamental facts: The majority of the water supply for the state is sourced from the north and northeastern half of the state. There is an estimated 50 to 60% evaporation loss of all water supply yields. Approximately 20 million acre feet (MAF) of supply occur in the North Coast region and are not able to be captured (at least no present plans or legislation exist to do so) for export south to meet the existing and growing needs of that portion of the state. Due to changes in surface-water supply use and climatic unpredictability, Isenberg warned there will be increased attention focused on groundwater use, specifically on the dangers of subsidence as a result of over-draft throughout the almond-growing region. More attention will be paid to making gains in conservation, including landscape design and watering. Financing of water projects looms large, said Isenberg. He noted presently, that 86% of the costs of projects are financed by local and regional entities, but with “fixes” continuing to prove very expensive, big question marks arise as to how these solutions will be financed and by whom. “Though the state asserts itself as a major player in and determiner of current and future progress, what role will public funds play in future projects?” he asked. Looking to the future, Isenberg said that Delta conveyance must be addressed, and more emphasis placed on local/regional self-reliance and smart water projects, including smaller storage options that were taken off the table years ago. He noted in summation that he is optimistic about the future, and that changes are happening, though seemingly slowly. Further progress can be made if Californians are “prudent and committed to a balanced/shared perspective on use, finally doing it together rather than in spite of each other.”
Feb 11, 2014 // Government Affairs

Three Diseases to Watch Out for This Spring

Confirmed band canker infections are on the rise in California Almonds in recent years and can be particularly damaging to 1- to 5-year-old trees. While there is no known chemical cure, growers can take steps to protect young trees from infection through cultural practices. Canker is a disease caused by eight species of Botryosphaeria that infect young trees under 5 years old through pruning wounds and growth cracks. Infections can also be caused by shaker injury or wind cracks at the base of scaffolds, which can cause them to break. UC plant pathologist Themis Michailides says growers should check orchards for signs of infection. Blackened gumming on trunks indicates previous infections of canker, while new infections will produce amber-colored balls of gumming in trunks or scaffolds of trees. Michailides said since there are no chemical controls for canker, focus should be on preventing infections from starting, and when you see signs of infection, removing infected limbs. A simple prevention strategy in young orchards is to make sure sprinklers do not wet trunks of trees. “If you have sprinklers, installing a splitter that prevents wetting trunks can reduce infection by 50%,” Michailides said. “Infected limbs should be removed, and when you decide to remove an infected tree, you should remove the entire tree; don’t leave stumps or diseased wood in the orchard, as these are a source of spore inocula.” He also recommends avoiding shaker wounds and pruning when conditions are dry, and avoiding pruning near a rain event. Disease occurs more near riparian areas such as rivers, canals and sloughs. Pruning here first provides an opportunity to spot initial infections. Generally, Michailides said, when canker infections appear in the trunk of 1- to 5-year-old trees, the tree has a 50-50 chance of survival. If the foliage of an infected tree looks green and healthy, the tree will survive; if the foliage looks chlorotic, it is likely the tree will not survive. Growers will have to decide whether to remove the infected tree or wait and see. Bacterial Spot Bacterial spot, caused by a bacterium (Xanthomonas arboricola pv. pruni), is another spring disease showing up with a high incidence in many California Almond orchards. Last year, the disease created a critical situation in some orchards in Colusa, Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties, leading to significant fruit loss. The Fritz variety of almonds is very susceptible, but isolations have been made on a number of other varieties, which are not as severely affected. A high degree of wetness from rainfall or sprinkler irrigation is favorable for infections. In-season symptoms include numerous fruit lesions that develop amber gumming and result in excessive fruit drop. Leaf spots and defoliation are also symptoms of the disease. February is a good time to observe if the disease was present in orchards last year. Look for infections on blossoms. Unusual lesions on blossoms can be attributed to several things, but if brown rot sprays have been made and there are still unusual lesions, contact your local farm advisor. Symptoms of the disease from the previous season can also be found as raised, circular bumps on fruit mummies still attached to the tree. These lesions have high levels of the pathogenic bacterium; in fact, mummy sanitation is a key component of control. Twig lesions and contaminated buds are also overwintering sites. UC plant pathologists Jim Adaskaveg and Themis Michailides and UC farm advisors Brent Holtz (San Joaquin), David Doll (Merced) and Roger Duncan (Stanislaus) have done much to characterize the extent and nature of this disease in California Almonds; however, management strategies used on other crops in some areas of the U.S., as well as on almonds in Australia, need to be investigated and adapted for California. UC Riverside plant pathologist Adaskaveg is leading Almond Board–funded research investigating dormant and springtime applications with bactericides. This work should soon offer California-specific recommendations, but for now, UC personnel are basing their advice on experiences in Australia, where bacterial spot was first confirmed in 1994–95, and on information from stone fruit crops in the southeastern United States, where the disease has been endemic for many years. As this is a relatively new, emerging disease, questions should be directed to UC farm advisors. Brown Rot With the broad efficacy and reachback of today’s fungicides, growers can hold off on brown rot bloom sprays until full bloom in drier weather, and get by with a single — or perhaps no application — depending on weather conditions and location. Delaying fungicide treatments to when 40% to 80% of the flowers are open under drier conditions can save on fungicide applications and also help reduce exposure to foraging bees during pollination, while still getting excellent brown rot blossom blight control and coverage for other spring diseases, says Adaskaveg. Growers can minimize exposure of bees and pollen to sprays by avoiding applications when pollen is available and bees are foraging. This normally is best accomplished by spraying after mid-afternoon and at night. “We have reviewed fungicide efficacy data, and with today’s efficacy in both pre- and post-infection activity, we can be more discriminatory about our applications,” Adaskaveg said. “If rain is not in the forecast, you can hold off on your sprays until 40% to 80% bloom in the northern part of the state, and get by with a single spray, and in the south, get by with perhaps no spray at all.” Adaskaveg said that given the excellent efficacy of today’s fungicides, recommendations are moving away from an early pink-bud application at 5% bloom toward a delayed single application under less favorable conditions for disease.
Feb 03, 2014 // Orchard Management
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