Growing Up Sustainable
In addition to providing wholesome nutrition and supporting the health of our population, California’s community of more than 6,500 almond growers are committed to using sustainable agricultural practices that respect the environment and local community1,2. Over 90 percent of California almond farms are family farms, owned in large part by third and fourth generation family farmers who plan to pass down their land and way of life to their children and grandchildren.2 And nearly three-quarters of almond farms are less than 100 acres2These growers recognize the need to carefully manage resources for current and future generations, offer continued work for their employees, and ensure clean air and water for their families and neighbors.
Sustainable practices for almond growers differ from orchard to orchard depending on particular conditions, such as soil and climate variances in California’s Central Valley. Achieving sustainability takes individualized care and consideration of resources, such as reviewing weather, soil moisture and tree needs to determine the most effective irrigation strategies and nutrient needs.
In order to continue to help growers navigate these complex challenges, the Almond Board of California invests more than $2 million a year to research production and environmental issues to continually evolve best practices. Highlighted below are some of our ongoing sustainability efforts.
A Team on a Mission
When it comes to following sustainable agricultural practices, California almond growers and handlers together have been progressive and are continuously challenging themselves to do more. The California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP) was established in 2009 to better understand the ongoing sustainability practices of growers related to the following aspects in their operations:
- Water (efficiency and quality)
- Air quality
- Land (nutrient management, pest management and bee health)
- More than 70 percent of almond orchards represented in a 2014 survey report using micro-irrigation systems, which conserve water by decreasing water runoff, applying water directly to the root zone to avoid waste, and for precise timing and rate of irrigation.
- 83 percent of surveyed growers report using demand-based rather than scheduled irrigation, which means they monitor weather, soil moisture and trees to determine when and how much to irrigate.4
- 62 percent of almond growers use soil maps to understand the soil characteristics in their orchards in order to determine the design of the irrigation systems to enhance water infiltration and distribution.4
- Almond growers also ensure optimal maintenance of irrigation system infrastructure.
The first phase of the California Almond Life Cycle Assessment explores the climate impact and energy use of California almond production (from nursery to hulled and shelled almonds) over a typical 25-year lifespan of an almond orchard. Among its key findings, the research concludes that energy production from almond prunings and cleared trees is key to optimal almond production. In fact, when these waste products are fully utilized, almond production can potentially be carbon neutral or even carbon negative.7 Research continues to determine whether a statistically significant number of California’s almond growers are currently re-using their waste products in these ways.
The Almond Board is currently working on approving the second phase of the Life Cycle Assessment with UC Davis researchers, who will explore the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions beyond-the-farm production – including activities such as blanching, roasting, packaging and transporting almonds.
For questions or more information about our sustainability efforts, contact the Almond Board.