Almond Board: Commitment to Research

Taylor Hillman Almond Update

On both National Almond Day and National Innovation Day, Almond Board of California (ABC) is announcing a research commitment that will benefit the almond community in 2017 and beyond. Through this program, ABC is investing $4.7 million dollars in 82 independent, third-party research projects exploring next-generation farming and sustainability practices. Sabrina Hill talks with Gabrielle Ludwig, Almond Board Director of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs for more information.

Listen to the interview here:

Almond Board-funded research and the improvement opportunities it represents for almond growers is strengthened with grants from the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) 2016 Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) Program and State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP). Altogether, funding covers a range of areas including irrigation efficiency, air quality and honey bee health.

Through ABC, the California almond community has invested $60 million to build a foundation of research on environmental, production and other issues to continually evolve best practices. This effort includes the Accelerated Innovation Management (AIM) program and was celebrated at the recent Almond Conference in a short film.

“This commitment helps ensure that almond farmers and the industry as a whole have the tools to implement sustainable production practices that result in a plentiful, nutritious and safe food product for consumers the world over to enjoy,” said Almond Board Director of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs, Gabriele Ludwig.

Almond Board Research Investment

Formally launched in 1973, the Almond Board’s research programs have been providing a scientific basis for best practices across several priority areas for more than 40 years. Two of those key areas are sustainable water use and protecting the honey bees that pollinate the state’s almond crop each year. Since 1982, California almond growers have reduced the amount of water needed to grow a pound of almonds by 33 percent.[2] To further this improvement, 17 of this year’s research projects focus on irrigation improvement with an investment of $1.3 million. To address the major factors impacting honey bee health, 11 new research projects, totaling nearly $400,000 have been funded. In total, $2.3 million has been committed to honey bee health research since 1995, more than any other crop or commodity group.[3]

“By continually investing in research, we challenge ourselves to do more and continue to pave the way for almonds to be an economically, environmentally and social responsible crop for California.” said Almond Board CEO, Richard Waycott.

A sampling of projects funded by ABC include:

· University of California Cooperative Extension, Brent Holtz: Whole Orchard Recycling

· United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Bryan Jenkins: Almond Shells Used to Improve Properties of Plastics

· University of California, Davis, Helen Dahlke: Winter Water Management Assessing Recharge in Almond Orchards

· University of California, Davis, Shrini Upadhyaya: A Leaf Monitoring System for Continuous Measurement of Plant Water Status to Assist with Irrigation Management of Specialty Crops

· Washington State University, Walter Sheppard: Importation and Preservation of Germplasm for U.S. Honey Bee Breeding and Stock Improvement

Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

In addition to ABC’s research program, CDFA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has awarded $2.39 million in United States Department of Agriculture research funding to 10 almond-related projects. For many of the projects, this allows ABC’s partner research institutions to supplement current ABC investments or continue projects previously supported by ABC that will benefit the almond industry.

“It is gratifying to see that the industry dollars our committees are putting toward research or to outreach has compelled additional research funding through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program,” said Ludwig. “Not only does this further advance almond production, it helps improve California agriculture as a whole.”

Select almond-specific grantees include:

· Almond Board of California: Facilitate FSMA Implementation Through Resource Development and Outreach for Almond Operations Covered Under Farm Definition

· University of California, Davis, Brent Holtz and Amélie Gaudin: Potential of Whole Orchard Recycling to Build Sustainability and Resilience of Almond Production

· University of California, Davis, Patrick Brown: Data-Driven Block-Level Yield Prediction for Seasonal Nitrogen Fertilization Strategies in California’s Almond Orchards

· USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Greg Browne: Development of Versatile Phytophthora-Resistant Almond and Walnut Rootstocks Using Host-Induced Gene Silencing

State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program

Through CDFA’s State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, 528 agricultural projects totaling $55.7 million have been selected to receive funding to invest in irrigation systems and practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save water. The projects leverage an additional matching funds, provided by the award recipients.

The most recent funding award provided more than 16 almond growers means to install cutting-edge irrigation technology, much of which was proven by research through programs like the Almond Board of California’s and the Specialty Crop Block Grant program.

“This investment continues California’s ongoing innovation in agricultural water use efficiency,” said CDFA Secretary, Karen Ross. “Farmers involved in this program are making positive on-farm changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, grow food with the most efficient use of water and help address our changing climate.”

Almond grower grantees received funding for irrigation improvements including:

· Conversion from traditional flood irrigation to water-saving microirrigation systems

· Soil moisture sensors and in-field weather stations that provide important information for determining when irrigation is needed

· Sand filters that keep irrigation systems at a constant pressure and flush particles that can cause blockages and inefficiency

· Flow meters that give growers exact information on how much water is being applied to their field, which is important for managing water resources and system maintenance

Together, these three research programs help to ensure that the California Almond industry continues to identify and implement sustainable and innovative farming practices. Through this research and its supporting partnerships, the California almond community will be prepared to meet the future needs of agriculture, our communities and the environment.