Almond Board of California investing $4.7 million in sustainability and next-generation farming

By on February 21, 2017
Almond Board of California

The Almond Board of California (ABC) has announced an investment of $4.7 million in 82 independent, third-party research projects exploring next-generation farming and sustainability practices. The Almond Board’s research programs have been providing a scientific basis for best practices across several priority areas since it was founded in 1973.

The ABC-funded research and improvement opportunities have been augmented by various 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). Combined funds have covered a range of projects including irrigation efficiency, air quality and honey bee health.

Two of ABC’s focus 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. 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.

“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.

Three of the projects funded by ABC include:

  • 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

For its part in furthering the efficiency in the almond industry the CDFA’s State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program has selected 528 agricultural projects totaling $55.7 million 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 awards will provide more than 16 almond growers the means to install cutting-edge irrigation technology. Much of the technology’s realization has been proven through research by programs by the Almond Board of California and the Specialty Crop Block Grant program.

“This investment continues California’s ongoing innovation in agricultural water use efficiency,” said, Karen Ross, CDFA secretary. “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.”

Four of the almond grower grantees receiving funding for irrigation improvements include projects such as:

  • Conversion from traditional flood irrigation to water-saving micro-irrigation 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

These research programs – and similarly beneficial efforts – will help the California almond industry to continue to identify and implement sustainable and innovative farming practices and better water management.