For those seeking Valley Air District cost-share for a PTO-driven low-dust nut harvester, they must have a Tier 3 or Tier 4 tractor with which to pull it. If they have one rated as Tier 0, 1 or 2, they’d have to replace it with a Tier 4 final tractor to also take advantage of the nut harvester program (all photos by V. Boyd.)
DON’T KICK UP DUST WITH DEMAND INCREASING FOR FINANCIAL INCENTIVES FOR LOW-DUST NUT HARVESTING EQUIPMENT, AGENCIES SAY TOBy VICKY BOYD | Contributing Writer
The San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Control District has helped replace more than 180 conventional nut harvesters with low-dust models since its focused replacement program was piloted in 2018. The Natural Resources Conservation Service has a separate program that provides per-acre costshare to growers who have orchards custom-harvested with low-dust equip ment. It also offers incentives to growers who harvest their own orchards with low-dust machines and are bringing new trees into production.
Together, the programs are designed to help reduce the state’s air quality problems surrounding minute dust particles known as PM 2.5.
A Focus on the San Joaquin Valley
The Valley Air District’s program provides up to 50% of the purchase price, or up to $150,000 apiece, for an approved PTO-driven or self-propelled low-dust nut harvester. Applicants who receive district cost-share for nut harvesters cannot receive additional funding from other local, state or feder
al programs. But they’re allowed to receive air district incentives on up to five harvesters.
“It’s very popular with the producers out there and the custom harvesters as well, so it’s been very successful,” said Aaron Tarango, air district program manager for the grant department.
On average, recipients have received about $90,000 per unit, he said. For this fiscal year, which began July 1, the district budgeted $2 million for the program.
This harvester program is only for machines that operate within the Valley Air District, which covers the valley por tion of Kern County to San Joaquin County in the northern part of the valley. To qualify, each low-dust harvester model has had to be tested and shown to reduce dust production by at least 40% compared to conventional machines.
A Beneficial Incentive
Roger Isom, president and CEO of Western Agricultural Processors Association, said he would like to see more fund ing put toward low-dust harvesters. But he also understands the Valley Air District’s priorities of reducing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from off-road engines.
“[The harvester program] has been very beneficial because growers don’t have the money the way commodity prices are right now; they need that incentive,” he said. “Probably the bigger issue, frankly, has been the need to focus most of the air district’s funds on tractor replacement because we need to meet the federal goals by 2023.”
As a part of recent attainment planning efforts for the federal PM 2.5 standards, the state committed to reduce 11 tons per day of NOx and 0.58 tons per day of PM 2.5 from
agricultural equipment in the San Joaquin Valley by the 2024 deadline.
To that end, the district this fiscal year allocated $189 million toward the replacement of agricultural tractors with Tier 0, Tier 1 and Tier 2 engines.
NRCS Cost-Share Program
NRCS also offers cost-share for low-dust nut harvest equipment through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program. But the federal program is slightly different than the state’s, said Jesse Bahm, NRCS state air quality special ist.
For the 2022 season, NRCS provided $42.84 per acre an nually as part of a three-year contract for almond orchards statewide in which low-dust harvesting equipment is used. The rate for 2023 is expected shortly.
To qualify, he said the equipment must reduce PM 2.5 and PM 10 dust production by at least 30% compared to conventional machines.
“I always encourage producers to come in and apply, and we can see how our programs work for them,” Bahm said.
Dust Reduction Goals
Because the San Joaquin Valley is an EPA non-attain ment area for PM 2.5 particulate matter, the goal of the nut harvester replacement programs is to reduce dust produced during nut harvest.
With a diameter about 30 times smaller than a human hair, PM 2.5 particulates have come under fire because they can be inhaled into the lungs, potentially causing premature death and heart and lung issues. Together with the slightly larger PM 10 particulates, they also can reduce visibility.
In addition, the Almond Board of California has estab lished an industry-wide goal of reducing dust during the entire harvest process by 50% by 2025 as part of its “Al mond Orchard Goals 2025 Roadmap” released in Decem ber 2019.
For Valley Air District harvester-replacement applicants on the fence, Tarango encouraged them to apply sooner rather than later.
“It’s been over-subscribed, which is a good thing to have
“[The harvester program] has been very beneficial because growers don’t have the money the way commodity prices are right now; they need that incentive.” – Roger Isom, WAPA
because it means they’re interested in doing it,” Tarango said.
For those opting for a PTO-driven low-dust harvester, he said they must have a Tier 3 or Tier 4 tractor with which to pull it. If they have one rated as Tier 0, 1 or 2, they’d have to replace it with a Tier 4 final tractor to also take
advantage of the nut harvester program.
However, Tarango pointed to the district’s agricultural tractor replace ment program that will help fund lower-emissions tractors.
“We cannot fund a new PTO lowdust harvester unless the tractor pull ing it is at least a Tier 3,” he said. “If you
don’t currently have a Tier 3 or cleaner tractor that can pull the new low-dust PTO harvester, then the district will help you replace it with a new Tier 4 final tractor. You can apply to both programs at the same time if you need to upgrade your old tractor as well.”
With both programs, Tarango said, the district contracts with valley dis mantlers that render the older equip ment inoperable and verify it has been destroyed.
For more information on the Valley Air District’s nut harvester replacement programs, visit valleyair.org/grants/ low-dust-nut-harvester-replacementprogram/. To find the NRCS office near est you, visit the office locator page at offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app.
Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at email@example.comFlory Industries recently introduced the VX240 Ultra-Low Dust PTO harvester. It qual ifies for the San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Control District’s low-dust nut harvester replacement program.
Pistachio Industry Zeroes in On Water Supply IssuesBy MITCH LIES | Contributing Writer
American Pistachio Growers (APG) executives have long known that a good percentage of California pistachios are grown outside of irrigation districts. But un til recently, they didn’t know exactly how much.
According to a study commis sioned by APG this past summer, it turns out that nearly one-fourth of California pistachio acreage, a little over 118,000 acres, are outside of irrigation districts and largely reliant on groundwater for irrigation. As such, these acres are subject to regulatory actions under the Sustain able Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), and growers in these areas are facing an uncertain future with difficult choices.
APG is using information from the study, performed by Land IQ of Sacramento, to show regulatory officials and lawmakers the poten tial effects of full implementation of SGMA on the pistachio industry with hopes of mitigating some of the negative impacts.
“We knew that there was a number of acres that were planted in these areas that were critically overdrafted and/or not in any water district,” said Richard Matoian, pres ident of APG, “but we didn’t know how many acres. This work helped identify that so that we could speak a whole lot more intelligently about those acres that are potentially going to be affected by full implementation of SGMA.
“We wanted to have a better sense of how many acres that represented,” Matoian said.
To obtain the data, Land IQ Owner and Principal Scientist Joel Kimmelshue overlayed pistachio acres captured via satellite imagery and ground truthing with water sup ply information. Land IQ also uses an agronomic component of eval uation to gather an accurate repreAccording to a Land IQ study commissioned by APG this past summer, nearly onefourth of California pistachio acreage, a little over 118,000 acres, are outside of irri gation districts and largely reliant on groundwater for irrigation (photo by Catherine Merlo.) The study will help the industry better estimate yields or crop size in any given area and show where robust water supplies can help the industry grow (photo by Cather ine Merlo.)
sentation of a commodity’s footprint, Kimmelshue said.
“We put together as many pieces of information as possible,” Kimmelshue said.
The growth of the California pis tachio industry, well documented in recent years, shows a threefold increase over the past 15 years, with many of the newer acres planted outside of irriga tion districts.
About 96% of the 460,000 bearing acres are grown in the San Joaquin Valley, according to Matoian. “There is more now being grown in Northern California, but much of that is not into bearing,” Matoian said. Overall, Cali fornia has 525,000 acres of pistachios in the ground, he said.
Some difficult choices loom for growers reliant on groundwater for irrigation and those in water districts cutting back on deliveries, which pri marily include state and federal water project districts, Matoian said.
“Their options are: one, they are going to have to cut back on how much water they can apply; two, they are go ing to have to purchase or utilize some of their existing ground and allocate the water from that other ground onto their permanent crops; or three, they are going to have to try to figure out something else that may not be a good option, such as deficit irrigating at only those critical times, purchasing more ground, which would come at a cost, or purchasing water that can be trans
ferred if you are in an area where you can do water transfers.
“So, there are options, but these op tions do come at a cost. And they come with complexities surrounding them,” Matoian said.
Several Forces at Play
Concerns around water supply are being shaped by several forces, Matoian said, including water shortage issues within the Colorado River system, which is prompting Southern Califor nia water users to look north for addi tional water supplies, and issues with groundwater-critical resources, which prompted the passage of SGMA in 2014. Implementation of the act is now underway, and its effects are already being felt.
Earlier this year, APG approached Land IQ, which provides crop mapping
irrigation water in the future than those outside of irrigation districts. But, he said, there are variations within that concept. Some irrigation districts, he said, are better positioned than others.
“Some districts are more robust in their water supply,” Kimmelshue said. “They may have senior rights, riparian rights, and others may not. So, that is the real benefit of mapping pistachios or any crop for that matter and being able to spatially locate each individual orchard in relation to an irrigation district, or not.”
In the study, Land IQ used a qual itative index to determine the robust ness of water supply for any given area, Kimmelshue said, where 1 is bad and 18 is perfect. “There is nothing that is
“This work helped identify that, so that we could speak a whole lot more intelligently about those acres that are potentially going to be affected by full implementation of SGMA.” – Richard Matoian, American Pistachio Growers
surprising. It just helps us determine the actual amount of acres that were in these water-sensitive areas.
“And that is exactly what we wanted to get from the study,” he said. “We wanted to be able to go to regulators and say that our pistachio acreage is in these areas and unless you are provid ing some help in the sense of providing more water, we are going to have a potential curtailment of the water that is available to the industry and the production that is going to come. And if food production is important, which we believe it is, if jobs are important, then we need to figure out how we can provide more water to these growers and more water to these communities as well.
“Many of these communities that are on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley, cities like Orange Cove, Porter ville and Lindsay and others, rely upon the Friant-Kern Canal, for example, for their water supply,” he said. “They are pumping the water, treating the water and that provides their municipal water. And I know on the west side, that is the case in the city of Coalinga, which pulls water out of the California Aqueduct.”
Matoian said the study serves several purposes outside of revealing the number of acres affected by full implementation of SGMA, including
helping the industry better estimate yields or crop size in any given area and showing where the industry would be best suited to grow in terms of where water supplies are most robust. “Gener ally speaking, it is going to be tougher to increase acres in areas in which we have critically overdrafted water basins and with full implementation of SGMA,” he said.
On the plus-side, Matoian noted,
pistachios require less water than some other crops and are more salt-tolerant so can be grown on more marginal soils, facts that could help the industry better withstand water limitations.
But, he said, the bottom line is, “More water means more potential crop.”
Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Winter Irrigation: Managing SoilBy CALEB CRAWFORD | UCCE Staff Research Associate, Kings and Tulare Counties and DOUGLAS AMARAL | UCCE Farm Advisor, Kings & Tulare Counties
While farmers in California are short on water, they must also deal with too much salt in the soil. The problem is being worsened by poor-quality well water, especially in the westside of the San Joaquin Valley where saline soils and brackish water are more common. Although some salts are needed for crop production, at highenough concentrations, they can reduce water uptake which
Soil and Water Analysis
The first step in combating high salinity is to understand how prevalent the issue is. A soil and water analysis needs to be done so that a grower knows how much salt is currently in their soil and how much is put on during irrigation. These tests will provide the grower with numerical values that can be more easily read and used to apply the proper manage ment technique.
The pistachio production manual recommends taking samples in 1-foot increment depths to a minimum of a 4-foot depth taken from 6 to 12 locations per different soil type zone. Sampling locations should be evenly spread apart throughout the zone. Label each bucket for its corresponding depth (0’ to 1’, 1’ to 2’, etc.), and for each zone combine all samples from that depth. For each soil type zone, you will then have one composite sample for each depth increment.
Irrigation method should also be considered when choos ing sampling locations. In flood-irrigated pistachios, sam
pling 5 to 10 ft to the side of the tree row is the best location. In sprinkler-ir rigated pistachios, sampling should ensure that two-thirds of locations be within the wetting pattern of the sprin klers while one-third is taken outside the wetting pattern. The same method applies for microsprinklers and drip irrigation.
Sampling water quality is far less tedious than soil. First, rinse a plastic container (about 8 oz) in the water that you are sampling. Fill the container completely and seal the lid. If extract ing water from a well, allow the water to run for 30 minutes before taking your sample. If possible, make sure to submit the water sample the same day you extract it. Usually, irrigation districts test for water quality and can supply you with this information.
Salinity Management Practices
Excessive salts (high salinity) in the
root zone will not only reduce water uptake, but may also cause nutrient imbalance, affecting plant growth and yield. High concentration of specific ions can also become toxic to crops. Proper irrigation and agronomic management practices such as leaching and soil/water amendments can help reduce the adverse effects of salinity on crop production.
The key to salinity control and to irrigation sustainability is leaching. Leaching is the net downward move ment of water and controls the salt distribution in the profile. When the crop root zone has become too saline, it requires extra water to leach out the accumulated salts by increasing the leaching fraction. Maintenance leaching is necessary to keep the aver age rootzone salinity below the plant threshold EC levels.
Reclamation leaching is the appli cation of water until the soil salts are leached out of the intended root zone. Reclamation is needed when excessive
With diligence and time, a grower may be able to overcome high salinity issues in the field.
production, at high-enough concentra tions, they can damage trees and reduce water uptake which may substantially reduce yield.
salts will restrict production in an ex isting orchard or are found to be higher than acceptable tolerance levels in a soil being considered for development of a new orchard.
The main purposes for applying soil and/or water amendments are 1) to reduce sodium adsorption ratio (SAR) or exchangeable sodium percentage (ESP); and 2) to lower pH and release calcium in soils. The two general types of amendments are calcium salts and acid-forming amendments. The acid-forming amendments will reduce soil pH when applied in sufficient quantity and should not be used when the soil zone lacks significant amounts of lime.
Selection of a soil amendment for reclamation of a new orchard site or to sustain acceptable infiltration rates in an existing orchard is essentially dependent on the presence or absence of lime in the soil and the relative cost of the materials. If lime is abundant in the soil (particularly the surface soil), consider either a calcium salt or an ac id-forming amendment. Another factor influencing the choice of an amend ment is the product that will be added to the root zone. Some amendments add sulfates, others chloride or nitrate. Nitrate and chloride content will limit how much of these materials can be added. The amount of nitrogen should not exceed annual crop needs since it can be easily leached. Concentration of the Cl and impact on the pistachios should be insignificant when irrigation is sufficient. There have been no reports of sulfate accumulating to toxic levels in pistachios.
During the late fall and winter, trees are not totally dormant but are much less metabolically active, therefore leaching practices are best to be done during dormancy/winter months. When performing these irrigation/sa linity management practices, it cannot be stressed enough to be sure there is good infiltration of water going into the soil. The best way to apply excessive water with the goal to leach salts is to irrigate in multiple short intervals. The more you can spread out the timing of
irrigations, the better. Make sure not to let any part of the rootzone dry out during this process as well. If the soil begins to dry during this process, there is a chance salts will instead get pulled closer to the soil surface. If nitrogen fertilization is needed, it should be applied to fields after deep leaching and not before.
The six steps of proper assessment of potential salinity problems include 1) Collect representative soil and water samples; 2) Understand terms used in an analytical report; 3) Check the qual
different types of salinity problems; 5) Make remedial management deci sions; and most importantly 6) Consult with a crop advisor before making any decisions.
A complete guide on how to manage salinity can be found online at cekern. ucanr.edu/files/98609.pdf.
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NEW TECHNOLOGY WILL DRIVE THE INDUSTRY, BUT WILL ANYONE BEBy ALMOND BOARD OF CALIFORNIA | Contributing Writer
We have entered a new era in the evolution of farm equip ment. 185-year-old farm machinery giant John Deere kicked off 2022 with the announcement that their new fully autonomous 8R tractor was ready for large-scale production. This followed their acquisition of Bear Flag Robotics a few months prior, whose technology retrofits traditional tractors to make them autonomous.
The John Deere 8R is likely more of a fit for Midwest row crop agriculture, but it symbolizes a shift in Ameri can agriculture toward autonomy. In almond orchards, there are already autonomous options for tasks like mak
ing applications, mowing, and discing, with several other potential use cases on the horizon. Labor savings, efficien cy gains and cost reductions are a few reasons to explore these technologies and the options are more accessible than you might think.
More Efficiency, More Savings
Almond production is highly mech anized, efficient and not as labor-inten sive as some of the other specialty crops. But with labor costs and regulations continuing to rise, attracting, affording and retaining qualified employees is a real challenge.
When Kingsburg-based Crinklaw
Farm Services had trouble filling the seats of 130 spray rigs in their custom spraying fleet, owner Dave Crinklaw was determined to find a solution. Three years later, their first fully auton omous sprayer was ready for operation and GUSS Automation was born.
“We were sending guys two to four hours away from home,” said GUSS COO Gary Thompson. “They spray all night long at two miles an hour. It’s just a challenging position to hire for and get people who want to do this work.”
Now, one employee can operate up to eight autonomous sprayers at once
AT THE WHEEL?
using a laptop, tending to the sprayer only if there is a problem and when it needs to be refilled. Not only does this allow for fewer employees per sprayer, but it’s also a more enjoyable job for the operator and allows for a more efficient process.
“Two miles an hour is what most pest control advisers are going to suggest for spraying,” Thompson said. “Trying to get your drivers to do two miles an hour all night long when they’re spraying is very challenging. But autonomous sprayers don’t mind. You’re getting a much more precise spray.”
This level of automated consis tency allows growers to maximize investments in fuel, labor and chem ical inputs. Thompson also points to refilling time, which tends to go much quicker with an autonomous sprayer that doesn’t need a break.
“The nurse truck driver pulls up, he jumps out, there’s nobody to talk to. He hooks up the hose, fills it, and three minutes later it’s spraying again,” he said.
The gains from autonomy are not just about reducing employee head count. These technologies can improve the nature of the work for employees. Rather than sitting on a piece of equip ment for hours trying to keep it right
at two miles per hour, farm employees can focus on higher-value tasks.
There are a lot of reasons why grow ers would still want the option to drive the tractor rather than operating it au tonomously. Monarch Tractor, for ex ample, sells a compact, driver-optional tractor that is compatible with existing farm implements. They offer another big potential cost savings to growers as well: The unit is 100% electric with a swappable battery.
“Save money on diesel, reduce your emissions to meet sustainability met rics that buyers are asking for, and cut labor costs by having drivers manage fleets instead of just one tractor,” said Monarch Tractor CEO Praveen Pen metsa.
Penmetsa believes they are reimag ining what a tractor can be. Large glob al farm equipment manufacturer CNH Industrial has bought into this vision by becoming an investor in Monarch.
But many believe that the move to autonomous equipment shouldn’t involve replacing an entire fleet. Com panies such as Blue White Robotics, Kingman Ag, FieldIn and others are offering retrofit kits that give existing farm machinery autonomous capabil ities.
Blue White Robotics founder Ben
Alfi believes that adaptability and accessibility are very important for growers that are utilizing autonomous capabilities for the first time. “We’ll take any tractor that the grower has, no matter what type of color or size or design, and we’ll retrofit it, connect it and provide on-the-job training and support,” he said.
These retrofit options allow the driver to switch back and forth from manual to autonomous depending on the task. They also provide a lower barrier to entry for growers interest ed in seeing if autonomy can provide sufficient return on investment for their operation.
In some cases, it may make the most sense for autonomous technology to be offered as a service. This is especially true if growers won’t need the equip ment repeatedly throughout the year. As examples, Sabanto retrofits tractors with their technology and offers auton omous “farming as a service”, and Ran tizo is one example of spot-spraying as a service using swarms of autonomous drones. In specialty crops, companies like Farmwise offer robotic weeders as a service to vegetable growers.
InsightTRAC is attempting a similar “robots as a service” model in almonds with their fully autonomous mummy removal rover. The unit is designed to roam through the orchards, spot mummies using computer vision and remove them with a biodegradable pellet. The rovers are still being tested in California and Australia, but the company hopes to have a commercial service offering on a limited basis in 2023.
There are still some technical barri ers that need to be overcome to reach widespread adoption of autonomous technology, but economics and regula tion also constitute significant factors. “A major challenge for autonomy is the cost. You have to make sure your autonomous system is cost-effective,” said Dr. Stavros Vougioukas, professor
of biological and agricultural engineering at UC Davis.
Vougioukas said that in many on-farm use cases (e.g., fruit harvesting), the majority of efficiencies and labor savings comes from mechanization and automation without necessarily replacing the equipment operator. “Whether you are replacing the driver or not doesn’t always have a huge impact on the overall economics,” he said.
One additional charge to be aware of are software-as-aservice (SaaS) fees. These are generally not substantial, but it’s a recurring charge to keep the software updated and current.
A second significant challenge has to do with safety. Mon arch Tractor recently had a petition denied by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health that sought to clarify the use of driver-optional tractors without a hu man operator stationed on the vehicle. Despite this setback, Monarch continues to work with Cal/OSHA and sell their technology in hopes of regulatory clarity in the future.
A recent challenge that the almond industry is all too familiar with are supply chain constraints. Some important components for these technologies have at times been diffi cult to obtain. Most in the industry seem to agree that this is a temporary problem that will get resolved over time, but it is certainly something to be aware of before investing in this technology.
These challenges are real but seemingly surmountable as the cost of technology trends lower, regulations get clarified and supply chains free up.
The Data Flywheel
Autonomous equipment has evolved as a result of the digitization of farming over the past couple of decades. Farm data has trained algorithms and artificial intelligence models to run the machines. Now with more autonomous machines finding their way into orchards, even more data will be generated through the computer vision used for guidance systems and the various sensors these vehicles are equipped with. These massive data sets will be used to create even more useful models and tools for growers in the future.
Dr. Mason Earles at the Plant AI and Biophysics Lab at UC Davis is preparing for this future by building models that can estimate yield based on video data. Earles’ work focuses on full automation solutions from sensing and data pipelines to data analysis and grower insights.
Through a grant from the Almond Board of California, Earles and his team are developing an ag sensing solution called AgKit. This project includes an autonomous sensing device that is mounted on the front of a tractor that captures video footage as people are driving through the orchard. Re searchers are then using this data to develop agricultural and biological models for important functions like yield predic tion, tree health and pest and disease scouting.
“The AgKit is low-cost, quick to install and retrofits on
any tractor,” said Earles. “We want to start getting data and building these models now so that in three to five years, when all of this video footage is being generated from auton omous tractors, we have already done the work that can be used for generating the agronomic insights.”
Earles has been working on AgKit in grapes for even longer than almonds with a specific focus on yield prediction and forecasting. He is hoping to make similar progress in al monds alongside Vougioukas, who is developing techniques for real-time automated yield monitoring.
“In-field yield data is an important part of all of this. Without granular, ground-truthed yield data, we can’t know for sure how accurate our yield prediction models are.”
This is another major step in the evolution of efficient orchard management: More accurate, real-time yield pre diction and monitoring. This is possible with the flywheel between data and automation combined with the investment in research to develop these models.
The Journey Toward Autonomy
Even with these advancements, the path toward farm autonomy is not a short one. Iftach Birger grew up on a large almond farm in Israel but chose to launch digital ag startup
FieldIn rather than returning to the or chard. Birger said a lot of people in his generation are making a similar choice.
“The way that the next generation will evolve farming will be when they are ready to embrace 21st-century tools,” said Birger. “21st-century farms utilize data and automation to run the
Farming From Here On
farm in a different way.”
FieldIn’s auto-spray is the first of a series of autonomous products the company is launching to help growers along their journey to an autonomous farm. Birger and colleagues have out lined a five-step journey toward farm autonomy which includes digitizing the farm, benchmarking key metrics, identifying and deploying the right autonomous technology, automating decision making and re-designing the farm around these capabilities.
“We have a basic set of rules for autonomy,” said Birger. “It needs to provide return on investment from day one. It needs to be very straightforward to use. It needs to be a risk mitigator. And it needs to do something that a hu man cannot easily and repeatedly do.”
“John Deere Reveals Fully Autonomous Tractor at CES 2022” https://www. deere.com/en/news/all-news/autono mous-tractor-reveal/
“John Deere Acquires Bear Flag Robotics to Accelerate Autonomous Technology on the Farm” https://www.deere.com/ en/news/all-news/2021aug5-bear-flagrobotics/
“CNH Industrial, Monarch Tractor agree electrification technologies deal” https:// www.reuters.com/technology/cnh-indus trial-monarch-tractor-agree-electrifica tion-technologies-deal-2021-11-03/
“Cleaning Robots: Out of Your Home and Into Your Orchard” https://www.e-digi taleditions.com/i/1413164-2021-sept-octhow-we-grow/5?
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Simplify tasks like irrigation planning and pesticide reporting. Access centralized data from field activities to labor for streamlined forecasting and budgeting. Let’s create solutions for your operation, together.
“Monarch Tractor’s Petition for Updat ed Autonomous Tractor Regulations Denied” https://www.precisionfarming dealer.com/articles/5132-monarch-trac tors-petition-for-updated-autono mous-tractor-regulations-denied Companies and images used in this article do not
endorsement by the Almond Board of California.
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January 5th-6th, 2023 Yuba City, California
West Coast Nut magazine will hold its annual California Wal nut Conference in Yuba City.
Presented in collaboration with the California Walnut Board and Commis sion, the popular annual conference again features two days of continuing education seminars, a trade show and a free industry lunch featuring a one-hour industry outlook panel led by the Cali fornia Walnut Board and Commission.
Seminars this year are designed to engage audience participation by featuring a panel of participants includ ing growers, consultants, handlers and researchers to discuss issues including irrigation technology and navel orange worm in walnuts.
Five hours of DPR continuing ed ucation credit and eight hours of CCA credit are pending approval.
This free event takes place at the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds Jan. 5 and 6. Register at wcngg.com/events.
7:00 Registration / Trade Show 8:00 Disease Mgt--New Information on Bot, Mold and Phomopsis 8:30 Lessons Learned from the Freeze: Minimizing Risks and Acting on Observations 9:00 Roundtable Discussion: Journeys with Irrigation Scheduling Technology 10:00 Trade Show Break 11:00 Laws and Regs: Regulatory Overhaul of Telone and Impacts on Walnut Nematode Control 11:30 Managing Crown Gall from the Nursery to the Field Noon INDUSTRY LUNCH 12:30 State of the Industry Panel Discussion 1:30 Trade Show Break 2:30 Preparing for Walnut Blight 3:00 Orchard Weed Management Updates - 3:30 Adjourn 7:00 Registration 8:00 New Preplant and Post-plant Materials for Nematode in Walnuts 8:30 Walnut Board and Commission 9:00 Navel Orangeworm Panel: How Big a Problem is NOW in Walnuts and Why? 10:00 Break 10:30 Soil Health and Nut Orchards 11:00 Walnut Board and Commission 11:30 Laws and Regs: Pesticide Regulatory Updates in Walnut Orchards - Noon Adjourn
A Year to Tighten the Belt Major walnut handlers Patrick
Walnut market dynamics are never far from the thoughts of Patrick and Mike Andersen, whose family-owned Andersen & Sons Shelling, Inc. is one of the largest walnut handlers in California.
Last year, the two brothers oversaw the processing and marketing of 80 million pounds of walnuts at their plant in Vina, about 120 miles north of Sacramento. It was their biggest volume in their 20 years of walnut handling. And more growth is expected.
That means big accountability to the 200 growers who deliver their walnut crops to Andersen & Sons Shelling and to the 280 people the company employs. It also underscores the need to maintain and build relationships with the large wholesalers and national retailers who buy their walnut products.
In addition to growing their own walnuts and almonds, the Andersens also process and market almonds from about 100 growers. The brothers grow prunes, which are enjoying strong prices this year. In all, the Andersen family has been farming in Northern California since 1904.
Patrick is Andersen Shelling’s president and chief financial officer. Mike serves as vice president of sales and marketing. In November, they shared their market views with West Coast Nut.
Patrick: Yields in most varieties are up from last year. Some varieties, like Howards, are about the same or 10% to 15% higher. Chandler yields increased as much as 40% to 50%. Quality is a whole different game. It’s not that great this year. That period of extreme heat in late August and early September really affected the color of the walnuts. There are a lot of darker kernels, even in the Chan dlers. We’ve also seen a lot of mold, which we think is the result of the heat. Then our edible yields have been down a fair amount, and that’s asso ciated with mold. Quality-wise, it’s a below-average year, which is going to make it tough on the marketing side of things.
Mike: With about 10% more dark er-quality kernels this year, and with
Q. What’s your assessment of the 2022 walnut crop?
Q. What will the increase in dark-colored walnuts mean for marketing?
the mold defects, there will be more scrutiny by customers. That might leave some walnuts unsold because there’s no market for them. Over the last 10
to 20 years, the market’s evolved to where customers prefer the lighter colored walnuts. There’s starting to be a glut of darker quality sitting around in warehouses. Growers will have to start changing the varieties and quality they
grow to make sure we have the best, lightest-quality walnuts, period.
Q. Is your market predominantly domestic?
Mike: We’re about 85% domestic.
We’ve found a niche there that’s worked. We’ve created some really good relationships over the last several years with some of the larger retailers. That’s where our growth is going to be. It’s a lot harder marketing domestically than export.
Q. Why is that?
Mike: U.S. retailers are more demanding, especially with quality. On the export side, it’s a lot easier to ship a 40-foot container, get paid for it and let someone else deal with over seas retailers. Domestic retailers have higher standards than some of the export customers.
Patrick: But it hasn’t been easy for ag exporters either with the supply chain and logistic issues since the pandemic began.
Q. Looking forward to 2023, what’s your outlook on walnut prices?
Mike: They’re going to stay down until we fix the supply/ demand situation. There’s just too much supply at this point.
Q. What’s the ballpark range of prices right now?
Patrick: Return to growers is in the range of 40 to 50 cents a pound, which is way under the cost of production. Every single grower is going to be losing money. The problem is
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the walnut crop has more than doubled over the last 20 years. We have a lot of competition in the export market from other countries like Chile and China. It’s creating a lot of supply out there worldwide. Chile has a record crop. There’s more supply right now than there is demand.
Q. When do you see that getting back into balance?
Mike: Like all supply and demand situations, this will resolve itself. A lot of growers with older orchards will be removing them or planting something else. Growers at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley who have high water costs will probably be removing orchards too just because it’s too unaffordable. It’s going to take two or three years to fix the supply situation. Every commodity has its ups and down. Almonds and walnuts have had a great 20-year run. We’re in a downward cycle right now. But we’ll get it under control and the price will come back around.
Q. With prices below the cost of production, along with the drought and rising input costs, how can growers hang on for another year or two?
Mike: If they’re not diversified, and they’re only in wal nuts or almonds, it’s going to be rough, maybe even into 2024. This is my 20th year marketing walnuts, and this is the lowest price I’ve ever seen. Farm entities are going to lose
money. You’ve got to tighten that belt and get through it.
Q. Are there any bright spots ahead?
Mike: The bright spot is that what we grow has a lot of health benefits. And right now, walnuts are price-af fordable, the cheapest they’ve been in 20 years. We actually had the CEO of a major retailer email our buyer after noticing that walnut prices were head ed down. He was excited that, while
everything else is headed up, this will help out their customers. So, people are recognizing that the price is low but maybe we can build demand and get some new customers.
Patrick: We think we can grow these markets a lot by pushing good quality, the health message and our commitment to sustainability. They’re really important to customers every day. Everything is used on a walnut. Almonds too. We eat the kernel. We compost the walnut hull. We sell the
shell for co-generation. We need to tell that story because that’s important to consumer and customers too. That’s where the nut industry is going to make a big push for the next couple of years. We think it will gain attention of new customers.
Top Five Tips to Make Sure Your Orchard Is Pollinator-FriendlyBy CECILIA PARSONS | Associate Editor
Considering that pollination services can present a significant portion of almond production costs, growers should be aware of steps they can take to provide the healthiest possible habitat for honeybees while hives are in their orchards.
Interviews with pollinator research ers, beekeepers and almond growers show that most are on the same page when it comes to implementing prac tices to promote honeybee health. The time spent in almond orchards impacts hive health throughout the year. Bee keepers want to retrieve healthy, active hives at the end of bloom. Growers want to be sure bees were active during bloom and positively impact produc tion. While weather during bloom can’t be controlled, nutrition sources, water, prevention of pesticide exposure and security can definitely be part of a successful almond pollination plan each year.
Communication between growers and beekeepers also plays a part in healthy hive habitat, said Rory Crowley, director of habitat programs for Project Apis m. He advises that all aspects of pollination services, both what the beekeeper is delivering and responsibil ities of the almond grower, are spelled out in a contract well before bees are delivered to the orchard. He also notes that almond growers who take the initiative and provide a healthy habitat for pollinators in their orchards may be rewarded with healthy, active hives.
Many growers and beekeepers have long-term pollination relationships, said Elena Nino, UC Davis honeybee researcher. She noted both old and new almond growers and beekeepers need to know the advantages of providing a “buffet for bees in and around the orchard.”
The following tips were provided by Nino, Crowley, Almond Board of
California’s best management practices and Steve House, director of operations for California Almond Pollination Service Inc.
Not all growers are aware of the advantages to honeybee health provid ed by blooming cover crops in orchards, said Nino.
Forage plantings, including cover crops and hedgerows, can provide a good source of nutrition that encourag es vigorous honeybee activity in the or chard. House notes that almond pollen is rich in proteins and amino acids, but the duration of availability is short.
While the window for planting 2023 supplemental forage has closed, growers and orchard managers can begin planning for the next planting opportunity. Crowley said the Apis m. program Seeds for Bees encourages growers to support honeybee health by
planting cover crops in orchards and, if possible, in surrounding areas to pro vide supplemental forage before, during and after bloom. Research has shown, he said, that almond orchards where cover crops are planted to bloom prior to almond bloom provide nutrition to foraging bees and result in increased bee activity during pollination. Not only does the supplemental forage provide nutrients to build healthy and vigorous colonies, Crowley said, but there is the potential for increased bee activity during pollination that may result in increased nut production. Last year, the Seeds for Bees program provided seeds for 8,419 acres of cover crops in California. An estimated 80% of the acres were almond orchards, Crowley said.
This simple yet vital provision allows bees to stay healthy and strong during the almond bloom. Access to water should be within a quarter mile of the hives. It is recommended by Project
Apis m. that a half gallon of water is available for each hive or one 55-gallon drum for every 100 hives or a 5-gallon bucket for every 10 hives while they are in the orchard.
Since bees cannot swim, a ‘land ing’ area at the water site is necessary for successful water collection. Blue Diamond Growers launched a pilot pro gram in 2019 that gives almond grower
members tubs with burlap at the top that acts as a landing pad for bees while they drink. Mel Machado, grower relations for Blue Diamond, said the program became official in 2021 with plans to scale up the program to have more growers participate.
Apis m. recommends placing water
near hives when they arrive in the orchard. Containers should be clean, and the burlap is draped over the sides to allow water to wick up. Water should be changed as needed. Research has shown that dead and decaying organic matter leaches nutrients into the water
that bees need. Depending on the needs of the hives, bees prefer water with sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium.
3. Bee-Friendly IPM
An environment safe from pesticide contamination not only keeps bees healthy, but it allows development of healthy larvae and brood in the hives.
Best management practices from the Almond Board of California stress that applications of fungicides be only done in late afternoon or evening. Crowley advised that nighttime spraying is probably the best choice, noting that the bees are much less likely to come into contact with the spray droplets. Even spraying with water during the day interrupts flight patterns of bees and makes them less likely to carry out effective pollination, Crowley said.
Growers, along with PCAs and ap plicators should also avoid tank mixing products during bloom until more is known about effects on honeybees. This
advice also includes adjuvants, Crow ley said, because not enough is known about the effects of the many adjuvants on the market on honeybees.
Clear communication between growers and beekeepers on the specifics of a pesticide application is import ant. The BeeWhere program evolved to facilitate communication between beekeepers and applicators.
California law requires beekeepers to register hive locations with their lo cal County Agricultural Commission ers. The BeeWhere program began in 2017 and offers a GIS mapping system where users can mark hive locations with a mobile app. That allows appli cators to access the general number of hives within a mile of a permit when a PCA is considering a pesticide appli cation. Applicators can access the hive locations for a 48-hour notification.
5. Hive Placement
This part of a healthy habitat can be crucial to optimal pollination activity. Nino said that hives placed where they are exposed to early morning sun will help add flight hours during pollina tion.
Access to hives by beekeepers is important, but so is security. Every year there are reports of hives stolen out of orchards during almond bloom. Hives placed next to roads can be vulnerable to theft, but those sites also offer easier
Predators can be an issue in some orchards. House notes that on the valley floor, wasps, meat bees, mice, swallows and skunks all eat honey and young bees, larvae and beeswax. While it is difficult to avoid all depre dation, choosing hive sites that are free of obvious signs of predators can help maintain hive security.
Where hives are placed in an or chard as well as when they arrive and leave is often spelled out in a pollina tion contract, but Nino notes that some sites better serve bee health than others.
Apply less, expect more?
Don’t Create a Food Crisis to Solve a Water Crisis
solutions to state’s water shortage.By MIKE WADE
Finding solutions to complex problems, like the Colo rado River’s dwindling supplies, requires working togeth er, not divisive attacks. Fallowing productive farmland should be a last resort when it comes to America’s food supply.
The problem is, there isn’t enough water in the Colorado River to meet its demands, thanks to the ongoing drought in
tion, which oversees water operations on the river, is seeking conservation by users in the river’s seven basin states. That is
solutions for the viability of their basins and the commu nities those basins serve (photo courtesy Mel Machado.)
Growers across California are stepping up, at their own expense, to provide solutions for the viability of their basins and the communities those basins serve. In many cases, that means senior water rights holders are volun tarily making water supplies available to junior water users, preventing cuts otherwise required. There are other collaborative efforts underway to fund on-farm conservation projects that are helping reduce demand.
Urban, agricultural and environ mental water users would all benefit from such efforts in the short- and long-term.
What is not helping is the relentless finger-pointing by non-agricultural water agencies and critics of agricul ture, saying that farmers aren’t doing enough.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Farmers throughout Southern California are already curtailing water use and have voluntarily put addition al cuts on the table next year to help shore-up the Colorado River.
California’s Palo Verde Irrigation District began adding conserved water to Lake Mead in 2021 and will continue to do so through 2024.
In addition to existing water effi ciency and water recycling programs,
the Coachella Valley Water District just approved a new agricultural water use reduction program.
The Imperial Irrigation District currently conserves and transfers on average 500,000 acre-feet per year and has saved more than 7 million acre-feet of water since 2003 as its conservation programs continue to ramp up. In
addition, its Lake Mead storage account is filled to capacity.
Still, critics of irrigated agriculture continue to shame farmers for growing crops, such as alfalfa, almonds and rice, saying they should fallow their fields or switch to crops that use less water, which fixes nothing.
Farmers grow crops that other peo
ple buy. Planting a crop that uses less water ends up being a complete waste if nobody is going to buy it.
In addition, alfalfa is the foundation of the food chain that brings beef and dairy products to the table. Think milk, ice cream, cheese, yogurt and more. Shifting alfalfa production to other states adds food miles, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and ultimately higher costs and/or emptier shelves at the grocery store.
Worse is the impact on commu nities that depend on agriculture for their economic well-being. Califor nia’s Imperial Valley has no other water supply than the Colorado River. The Sacramento Valley has been devastated this year by unprecedented water supply cuts. And a drive down I-5 along the San Joaquin Valley’s Westside reveals mile after mile of orchards that have been pulled out because of a lack of water. These are important agricultural regions that don’t have an economic base that can absorb additional unemployment, business closures and the loss of tax revenue that comes with fallowing.
Imperial Irrigation District Gener al Manager Enrique Martinez said it best in a recent interview: “You've got to… keep listening to the farmers, be cause ultimately, you don’t want to get to the point of creating a food crisis to solve a water crisis.”
FARMERS GROW CROPS THAT OTHER PEOPLE BUY. PLANTING A CROP THAT USES LESS WATER ENDS UP BEING A COMPLETE WASTE IF NOBODY IS GOING TO BUY IT.’
NAMED WEST COAST NUT “INDUSTRY TITAN”
FIRST ANNUAL AWARD PRESENTED TO LONG-TIME FARM ADVISOR AT CALIFORNIA TREE NUT CONFERENCEBy MARNI KATZ | Editor
West Coast Nut magazine presented its first ever West Coast Nut Industry Titan Award at this year’s California Tree Nut Conference to Franz Nieder holzer, UCCE farm advisor in Colu sa, Sutter and Yuba counties and research coordinator of the Nickels Soil Lab in Arbuckle, Calif.
This new annual award recog nizes a researcher, farm advisor, grower or industry leader who has made significant contributions to the production of almonds, wal nuts, pistachios and pecans in the Western U.S.
Nominees are assessed based on a matrix of the following criteria:
• How the honoree’s research, innovation and field work have advanced nut production in the Western U.S.
• How the honoree has transferred new information to nut growers through field days, magazine articles,
presentations and other vehicles of communication or through other significant industry leadership.
• How the honoree’s work has helped develop practical, long-term solu tions to ongoing industry problems.
• How the honoree has helped advance sustainable nut production by reduc ing inputs, costs or increasing yields.
“These nominees are often the unsung heroes in the nut industry, and West Coast Nut wanted to find a way to
recognize the important contributions and achievements of these industry titans,” said West Coast Nut Publisher Jason Scott. “Franz was the ideal of what we are looking for in an individu al to receive this award.”
In addition to answering farm calls, Niederholzer also works tirelessly be hind the scenes as research coordinator of the Nickels Soil Lab and as acting county director in Colusa County, a thankless but important job.
He grew up in the Bay Area but moved just out of high school to the Chico area when his parents bought a prune orchard. As new farmers, and members of the Sunsweet coop, Franz learned early on the value of cooperative minded farming, and this influenced his decision to go into UC Extension and pay the lessons forward that he learned from his many mentors.
“We found ourselves in a com munity of growers that were very supportive,” Niederholzer recalled. He says helping those growers be successful remains his primary focus.
“Growers and the people who help them make decisions on the farm are my clientele,” he said. “I do some writing with my peers, but really my job is to help growers stay successful. That’s important for the local econ omy and that’s why we [cooperative extension] are here.”
Niederholzer’s early exposure to farming carried over into his young adult life.
“As a kid growing up trying to think what to do with myself, the satisfaction at harvest of growing something people are going to use really made an impression on me.”
He received an undergraduate degree in history but turned his at tention to soils and orchard nutrient management, ultimately receiving his Ph.D. in pomology from UC Da vis. His first job in extension was as a county extension advisor on pears and apples in Oregon.
After a stint in the private sector, Niederholzer became farm advisor for prunes and almonds in Yuba County in 2002. When then farm advisor John Edstrom retired in
Colusa County, he assumed those responsibilities as well and also took over as research coordinator with the Nickels Soil Lab. His colleague Luke Milliron, a fellow UCCE farm advisor in the North Valley, said Niederholzer’s efforts to make Nickels a powerhouse for practical research in almonds and walnuts is “a massive and important” contribution to the industry.
Milliron also cited Niederholzer’s work on spray technology as an import ant contribution to the nut industry.
“He’s tackled something that is not sexy but is so important to everyday farming operations and improving spray efficacy and reducing drift,” Mil liron said.
And Milliron credited Niederholzer with mentoring and passing on decades of knowledge as a farm advisor to a new generation of farm advisors.
Trials Explore Modified Off-Ground HarvestBy CECILIA PARSONS | Associate Editor
As the effort to explore off-ground harvest of almonds continues, this year’s trials yielded some suc cesses with a modified version and uncovered potential opportunities for increasing production.
Patrick H. Brown, UC Davis researcher who has worked on off-ground almond harvest, said this year’s efforts were
“semi-off ground” in that the nuts caught in a catch frame, but laid in windrows on the ground in the orchard after shaking. He called this version shake-and-catch.
Josette Lewis, Almond Board’s chief scientific officer, said demonstrations of new options for harvest are helping almond growers visualize the possibilities with off-ground harvest. While the current economic situation with markets may cause hesitation in adoption of new harvest techniques, Lewis said there are enough plusses involved to lead the industry in that direction. Brown pointed out that it is not necessary to adopt off-site drying and that it is likely grow ers that would use the windrow drying method.
“This is a significant investment for growers and custom harvest operations at a time when market prices make it difficult,” Lewis said. But she noted there were financial incentives for purchase of low-dust harvest equipment.
Zac Ellis, technical director of agronomy for Olam and host of one shake-and-catch harvest demonstration in 2022, said capital expenditures would initially be high to move in the off-ground direction.
“I expect it to be a slow transition; we will need to see the
numbers, but I expect it will be worth it,” Ellis said.
Major changes in the machinery used this year marked improvement in the harvest process, Ellis said.
Aside from the investment in new machines, challenges in adopting a new harvest method include machine accom modation of large tree size and finding economical methods of drying the nuts. This year’s demonstrations put the nuts in a windrow in the orchard, but Lewis noted that the sweeping part of the harvest was eliminated along with the consider able dust generated by this part of the harvest.
Brown said harvest demonstrations were done in two larger orchard blocks. Machines from California-based Erick Nielsen Enterprises and Tol Machinery were used.
The machines were able to complete harvest at a faster pace than traditional shakers; while 12 to 13 seconds per tree is longer than a traditional shake process, the elimination of floor preparation and the sweeping and conditioning phases made the harvest process quicker as a whole, Brown said. Dust emissions were dramatically decreased, he said, with 80% to 90% percent reduction in dust. He said the grower also observed less damage to irrigation systems, and the harvested crop was cleaner compared to a shaken crop swept
into windrows. The harvest was one week earlier than it would have been with traditional harvest. Varieties harvest ed were Nonpareil, Wood Colony and Monterey.
Shortened harvest time in the orchard also allowed irri gation water to be applied sooner, Brown said, avoiding tree stress. Use of conditioners was not needed.
Brown said one of most interesting aspects of this year’s trial was tremendous yield differences between individ ual trees. Even with a uniform-appearing orchard, with yield data collected from each tree, there were instances of tremendous variability from tree to tree showing a poten tial to improve production. Down a row, Brown said, they found trees would yield from 65 to 30 to 110 pounds. Brown said machine capability of providing individual production data is another plus; that can only be found with off-ground (semi) harvest.
Brown said they will need to refine the weighing mecha nism to localize data for each tree and to identify which trees are performing well or not. Soils, fertilizer or water could make the difference, he said, and there would be a need for follow-up to confirm findings. Brown said he will be looking at improving the yield platform to determine improvements in production practices.
He listed minimum disruption to other orchard practices
as another consideration in the deci sion-making process to move forward with this alternative harvest method. Brown said practices like spreading hulls and shells or composts in the tree rows or maintaining more orchard floor vegetation as a soil amendment were not disturbed in the new harvest process.
Ellis said that issues with off-site drying will have to be solved for full off-ground harvest.
“California agriculture is not set up with areas for drying this crop. We will have to figure out the best way to move forward on this.”
Harvesting off-ground and then placing nuts into windrow configura tions has helped with the in-orchard drying process. In the 2021 harvest, the machines used made windrows that were too tall and tight for optimum drying and there were issues with mold.
Ellis said Tol, the equipment manufac turer, came back in 2022 with a new design and improved windrow shape to
make it more conducive to drying the crop.
Windfall loss of crop is another issue with earlier, off- ground harvest. Ellis said the higher moisture may con tribute to loss of kernel quality as the higher moisture content make it harder to remove hulls and can result in chips and scratches.
Off-site drying that is necessary if the industry was to transition to full off-ground harvest is a challenge to be faced in the future, Brown agreed. Lewis said a variety of mechanical drying options are under consideration by the industry. Column or silo drying or trailer drying are possibilities, but research is also needed for drying con ditions. Time and temperature need to be determined to maintain crop quality as moisture is reduced.
Brown said the next large-scale har vest trial would include a side-by-side comparison with traditional harvest to determine costs, savings benefits and
identify practical issues
Lewis said the shorter drying time in the field could reduce pest damage.
“Crop quality could be a benefit of off-ground harvest that could make the cost of drying feasible,” Lewis said. That quality applies to both kernels and hulls. Cleaner kernels could mean help with MRL (maximum residue level) issues that can limit exports. Hull value could be increased as they would be free of dirt and debris, which are issues with their use as cattle feed.
Ellis listed labor savings, less equip ment used and fewer passes through the orchard on the benefits side of the equation. He said orchard floor man agement would be much less intrusive with off-ground and allow more cover cropping.
A WORD FROM THE BOARD: AMERICAN PISTACHIO GROWERS
AMERICAN PISTACHIO GROWERS EMBARKS ON NEW ANTIOXIDANT CAMPAIGNBy AMERICAN PISTACHIO GROWERS | Contributing Writer
When you think of foods high in antioxidants, which foods come to mind? Blueberries, pomegranates or red wine? You’d be right on all of those. Now, thanks to a new study by Cornell University and published in the scientific journal Nu trients, you can add American-grown pistachios to that list. In fact, pista chios rival all those foods in their antioxidant levels. This will be shock ing news to those who assumed all foods high in antioxidants are deep red, purple or orange in color. Apparently, green is the new gold standard.
“As if we didn’t have enough good news about the health benefits of pis tachios, this is one of the most exciting studies to come out of a university,” said Judy Hirigoyen, VP of Global Marketing for American Pistachio Growers (APG), the organization that funded the study. “Consumers know they need protein, and they need antioxidants. Pistachios deliver both, conveniently and deliciously.”
In March 2020, Dr. Mehmet Oz announced the findings that pista chios are a complete protein, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids that are normally found in an imal proteins like meat, fish, poultry, dairy and eggs. APG made this their singular focus for promotion in all in ternational markets, just as consumers, and governments, are encouraging the intake of more plant-based proteins. In a recent survey of professional dietiThanks to a new study by Cornell University and published in the scientific journal Nutri ents, pistachios are now known to rival blueberries, pomegranates and other products in their antioxidant levels.
tians in Europe, it was found that 50% are now aware of the complete protein in pistachios. In the same survey, an increased number of dietitians also reported they recommend pistachios as part of a healthy diet. The findings were compared to a baseline survey conduct ed in 2016.
“That’s why APG exists, to discover the benefits of American pistachios and publicize those benefits around the world. Although pistachios have been part of food cultures in many countries, knowledge of their health benefits are relatively new thanks to APG members who are funding credible research,” said Amber Wilson, R.D., who is Director of Nutrition Research and Communica tion at APG.
When asked if the research would continue if APG didn’t fund it, Hiri goyen responded, “It would come to a screeching halt. Universities rely on grants to do most all their research in any field. In the minds of consum ers, pistachios would be aligned with low-value products in the snack aisle.”
The proof is in the pistachio pud ding, according to Hirigoyen. She cites
international trade data that points to increases in shipments and consump tion in key export markets thanks to increased awareness of American pistachios.
Now, Hirigoyen and Wilson are leading the global effort to publicize the new antioxidant findings. “We’re putting everything into antioxidant messaging now,” said Hirigoyen. “A
year from now, when consumers and dietitians are asked which foods are high in antioxidants, we want them to say blueberries, pomegranates, red wine and,” adding with a grin, “pistachios.”
As if we didn’t have enough good news about the health benefits of pistachios, this is one of the most exciting studies to come out of a university.
– Judy Hirigoyen, American Pistachio Growers
Look at the Reports Make Nutrition Changes That Are Actually UsefulBy RICH KREPS | CCA, SSp., Contributing Writer
Understanding your soils is not easy when there are so many factors. We start examining a report with the pH and ECs, but that’s such a small fraction of the equa tion. Some of my growers never even look at the meq/L nor care to. Some take a glance at the base saturation percentage and think everything is peachy keen. Without comparing to tissue samples, their “peaches” may not be “keen” on what they are absorbing. Many never look at the anion balance to see what salts are being made empirically by default in the ground. With so much information on a single sheet of paper, how do we decipher any of it? And if we don’t plan to change anything, why even look? To that I say let’s look, decipher and make changes that can actually be useful. And let’s not break the bank in one year trying to do it.
Care about Cations
We’ve talked before about the ppm of our cations in the soil. If your soil tests show 2,000 ppm calcium, since 6 inches of soil weighs about 2 million pounds per acre, we multiply that number by 2 to get the equivalent pounds of calcium. That makes a 2,000-ppm acetate extraction test calculate to 4,000 pounds of calcium for every 6 inches if your soils are uniform to, let’s say, 2 feet. That’s 16,000 pounds of calcium, per that test, that should become available this year.
What do you mean, “become available this year”? That’s what the acetate medium etched off in that particular test at that particular time, which is supposed to “estimate” what the soil can give off in a single year. That’s not a total soil load. That sounds like plenty of calcium to me for about 53 years if we used 300 pounds per year. How would we ever
be deficient if we could take up even part of that total? Obviously it’s not all getting into our trees.
Now move to the meq/L section where we look at a nutrient’s actual solubility in water. Let’s say that num ber is 50. Multiply that number by the element’s atomic weight divided by the valence electrons and divide that result by the ppm on the test. That would equal about 50% calcium solubilizing in this example. With pure lab water, not your well water. I’d throw a party if this was the norm for my growers.
Denele labs in Turlock calls this an “extraction ratio,” and it’s a great equation to see what amount of calci um is actually present in your water and potentially getting to your roots. Again, 50% would be a great number. I usually see reports of about 3% to 6%. Again, with pure water, a best-case scenario and not what we are irrigating with. We want to get our growers’ soils releasing about 20% to 30% for calcium and magnesium. 7% to 12% for potas sium. Here’s the kicker: We want about
75% being released for sodium. Those numbers are based on solubility and hydration radii. That gives us a leach able element. For every soluble unit of calcium we can get to stick on the soil colloid, we can kick off two sodium units since there are two charges. Same for magnesium. Potassium has the same charge as sodium so it’ll just kick off one unit. Potassium has the same charge, but it is heavier and therefore has a larger hydration radius (holds wa ter molecules around it much tighter) so it’s not as leachable. ump the good stuff, make it soluble if it’s not already and push the bad guy down further into the soil.
Remember Anions, Too
Now let’s look at anions for the negative charge of the salts. Chlorides, borates, nitrates, sulfate, carbonates, bicarbonates, etc., these are the things the positively charged nutrients attach to, to make most of the salts our plants
want to drink. Carbonates and bicar bonates need to be factored into our water tests as they continue to be added to our soils. Calcium carbonate is lime. Sodium bicarbonate is baking soda. Sodium chloride is table salt. Potassium chloride is muriate of potash; cheap K but a high leaf burn potential. Get it? Lots of detrimental salts can be made, especially if added in insoluble forms and applying too much. These aren’t exactly the good things we want in our soil. And many times, we create them ourselves or fail to remediate them.
Look at the Reports
The point of this goofy chemistry session is to highlight the fact that designing a nutrition plan for you is never as easy as applying copious bulk amendments in the fall, lots of N and insoluble P in the spring and hoping all gets worked out in the wash. Here’s part of the remedy: Sit down with your
Crop Advisor and lay the reports out. Soil, water (both spring and fall sam ples) and an early and late-season tissue sample.
Do the math on what it would take to completely balance a soil. I recom
mend “The perfect soil 2.0” by Michael Astera, to see what a total balancing remediation would look like. Take into account things are very different in the west than the Midwest or East coast where farmers actually get decent or even any rainfall! Heck, things are very
different from the north to south in just the Central Valley. Now, build a budget around what those amendments would cost to actually make changes.
I’d make a multi-year plan due to cost restraints. Adjust that for what you can afford this year and still be able to address soluble nutrients in-season. Take a look at what nutrients were deficient in your trees in the samples before harvest. What did you apply to address this, what amounts were used and what derivative (type of salt) did you use? Was it all soil-applied or did you spray any on foliarly? What was the pH of the spray? Did you match it to the nutrient demand curve to make sure that’s what the tree needed at that time? Did you apply those that will tie up to different parts of the tree, one soil and one leaves if need be? Do the math on what nutrients applied in excess will be tied up with what the water is giving us or other overapplied nutrients.
Actions cause reactions. Be pur poseful. Make a plan and be ready to amend it. In-season tissues should tell you if you are succeeding. Any nutri ents that are getting out of hand, like N in particular, can be reduced. Balance makes trees happy. Middle-of-the-road sufficiency on most nutrients with a big excess of N is not balanced. Reduce the N and bring the lower limits of the lower-level nutrients up. It’ll make everything work more efficiently.
Making plans cannot just be put on paper, in cookie cutter formats and applied to every farm with the same crop. You have to be deliberate to make change. Analyze your results with the detailed execution of previous plans. See where they have let you down or produced excesses. The more you understand the potential effects of your inputs, the more you’ll better prepare for making the right choices. Future tissue results and future yields will be come more predictable with a focused approach to increasingly expensive nutrients.
Walnuts on Trend in New Product DevelopmentBy CALIFORNIA WALNUT BOARD AND COMMISSION | Contributing Writer
By changing the perception of wal nuts from a baking nut to a versatile ingredient, CWC will be able to in crease walnut usage among foods and beverages in multiple categories. For each of the categories below, we want to establish the position of walnuts based on some of their core attributes benefitting the category.
Walnuts in Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
Walnut positioning: Clean-label plant-based protein Texture enhancer
Walnuts are a versatile ingre dient with applications throughout food and beverage categories, ranging from plant-based meat alternatives to snack bars. This hasn’t always been the case as walnuts used to be considered solely a baking nut.
The California Walnut Commis sion (CWC) is working to change that perception by positioning walnuts as an ingredient that delivers texture, flavor and nutrition across multiple categories. The goal is to spur new wal nut-based products that mimic ground beef in frozen entrées, walnut spreads that deliver flavor and omega-3 fatty ac ids, and clean-label food bars that use walnuts for their whole food benefits, flavor and texture.
Walnuts’ benefits as an ingredient in food and beverage products was showcased at this year’s Specialty Food Association’s prestigious sofiTM awards, with five products featuring walnuts taking home honors. What’s truly unique about this list of winners is the
diversity of food categories represent ed. Cookies, chocolates, crackers and plant-based meats all used walnuts to formulate award-winning products. Here are the 2022 sofiTM award winners that use walnuts.
Fig Walnut Macaroon Almond But ter, Big Spoon Roasters: A combination of walnut chunks with toasted coconut, figs, organic maple syrup and sea salt.
Carrot Cake Chocolate, Chuao Chocolatier: Caramelized white choc olate and walnut star in this chocolate bar formulated for carrot cake lovers.
Walnut with Cranberry & Fen nel Biscuits, Effie’s Homemade: This unique toasted walnut biscuit includes a bright pop of cranberry and hint of fennel.
Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie, Levain Bakery: This popular retail bak ery launched its signature Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies in freezer cases nationwide.
Vegan Nutty Loaf, Nutcase Vegan Meats: Nutcase Vegan’s lineup of plantbased meats all include walnuts.
Walnuts provide plant-based food manufacturers with a way to mimic products such as ground beef without excess ingredients and fillers. The next generation of plant-based foods will focus on clean-label products, and wal nuts can play a starring role due to their subtle nuttiness and exceptional tex ture that mimics ground beef in tacos, hamburgers and even frozen ravioli.
Most nuts are crunchy, but walnuts offer so much more in terms of texture, making them a specific nut ideal for mimicking ground beef. As most plantbased meat alternatives have texture issues, we’ve been working with food developers to promote walnuts as the perfect bite: neither too hard nor too soft. Walnuts’ mouthfeel as a plantbased ground beef alternative is evi denced in a product like Amy’s Organic California Veggie Burger. Walnuts are combined with mushrooms, veggies and sea salt for a soy-free plant-based patty that mimics a traditional meat counterpart.
At the CWC, we have focused much of our efforts on walnut ground meat. Formulations are quite simple and
require only a blend of walnuts with a legume (we recommend chickpeas or black beans) to create a clean label alternative that satisfies both flavor and
By using a formulation template of a 50/50 blend of walnuts and legumes as well as a seasoning blend, manufac turers can easily create chorizo walnut crumbles to be used in tacos, an omega burger patty or a walnut filling that mimics ground beef in ravioli or a frozen lasagna entrée. Walnuts provide texture, flavor, functionality and nu tritious value that make them a prime candidate as a meat replacer for centerof-plate plant-based products.
Walnuts in Food Bars
Alignment as a nutritious ingredient
In food bar formulations, we position walnuts as a way to satiate consumer demands for taste, texture and nutrition. In looking at the flavor profiles of ingredients for bars, walnuts carry a unique and subtle nutty flavor profile that complements traditional ingredients that consumers crave, such as chocolate, vanilla, fruit and more.
The growing popularity of all-day snacking, grab-and-go and functional nutrition has expanded the usage ap plications for food bars to almost every eating occasion. For meal replacement bars, walnuts provide protein and a high-caloric food. For a snack bar, wal nuts can add permissible indulgence to better-for-you bars that mimic popu lar desserts, such as carrot cakes and banana bread. And, in functional bars, walnuts carry marketing benefits of a nutritious nut that is continually in the media for positive health and nutrition
Walnuts in Bakery Foods
Walnuts have found a home in bak ery foods for hundreds of years. How can you have banana bread, chocolate
chip cookies or brownies without the perfect crunch of walnuts? Howev er, walnuts’ use in bakery foods goes beyond sweet goods. Think pie crusts and artisan bread inclusions. Or what about pan breads? In Japan, walnuts are a common inclusion in sandwich bread, and in the U.S., the largest bread baker in the country produces a honey nut loaf with walnuts.
To expand usage in the baking industry, CWC has positioned walnuts as a permissibly indulgent ingredient. Manufacturers in almost every bak ery food category are trying to create great-tasting products loaded with nu tritional benefits. Walnuts deliver both essential nutrition and indulgence and are easily incorporated into countless food products.
Walnuts in Granola, Trail Mix, Oatmeal and Cereal
Walnut positioning: A nutritious way to start your day Omega-3 fatty acids
Walnuts are the perfect addition to granolas and trail mixes due to their flavor and texture. However, we’ve been able to expand their usage in the grano la and trail mix category by promoting the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid content of walnuts. The omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts have led to an entire cottage industry of granola, trail mixes and nut mixes developing “omega” varieties that feature walnuts as a core ingredient.
Similar to granola, walnuts are positioned to be used in cereals and oatmeals that are chock full of betterfor-you ingredients to get consumers’ days off to a healthy start. Walnuts are perfect for cereal because they are an indulgent whole food with unique health properties.
Walnuts in Snacks
Walnut positioning: Nutritious snack Texture and flavor
Long gone are the days when three square meals a day was considered the standard. Today, snacking occurs at all times of the day and for all types of occasions. If consumers are intent on
snacking so much, isn’t it prudent to offer them some nutritious offerings that still deliver indulgence? We have positioned walnuts as a snacking nut by pairing them with on-trend season ings or as part of a made-with-walnuts snack food. This versatility, along with flavor, texture and health contributions, makes walnuts uniquely positioned to satisfy consumer cravings for healthy snacks that don’t sacrifice flavor.
Walnuts in Confectionery Products
Walnut positioning: Permissible indulgence Texture and flavor
Walking the show floor at this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo at Chicago’s McCormick Place was a treat in itself as we saw our work in the confectionery industry manifest itself with walnut confectionery products in a variety of categories. Walnuts and chocolate go together perfectly, both as a delightful flavor combination and as a juxta position of pleasing crunchy-creamy texture.
As an inclusion in chocolate bars, we’ve positioned walnuts as visually appealing, texturally interesting and flavor-positive. It’s the perfect trifec ta! Plus, walnuts are familiar to most consumers as an indulgent nut used in products such as chocolate chip cookies and brownies. These “comfort food memories” appeal to product develop ers in the confectionery space as they seek to align new product development with top consumer trends.
Walnuts in Nut Butters
Walnut positioning: Omega-3 fatty acids
Walnut butter is positioned to offer product developers versatility in a mar ket trending toward nutritious products that have unique flavor profiles, clean labels, all-natural ingredients and con venience. Walnut butter can be used as a standalone spread or dip, or as a filler in food bars, cookies or confections.
Walnut butter’s subtle nutty flavor allows for endless flavor combinations. Dark chocolate was named the num ber-one flavor pairing with walnuts in
a Davis Sensory Institute study, and walnut butters combined with choc olate are trending. Vanilla also made the top five as well as an assortment of savory and spicy flavor pairings. Con sumers are flocking to nut butters for their protein content, and one ounce of walnuts contains 4 grams of plantbased protein. In addition, walnuts also contain 2 grams of fiber.
To see more example of using walnuts in food and beverage products, visit our website for food professionals at walnuts.org/food-professionals/.
Land Repurposing Plans Still in FormationBy CECILIA PARSONS | Associate Editor
Repurposing farm ground, temporarily or possibly permanently reducing use of groundwater for irrigation, is an effort that is still in pre liminary stages. Jesse Roseman, Almond Board of California’s principal analyst for environmental and regulatory affairs, said impacts and locations where it will apply are not yet completely clear.
According to UC Merced, land repurposing is the practice of transi tioning irrigated land to new uses that conserve water and deliver new benefits to communities or ecosystems. Poten tial benefits to land repurposing listed include restored habitat corridors, com munity recreation spaces, low-impact solar and groundwater recharge basins.
It is clear that lack of surface water supplies and increased regulation of groundwater extraction in many of the state’s subbasins will increase the chances that some irrigated farm ground in this state will come out of production. Estimates from the Public Policy Institute of California and the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint are that as much as one million acres of farm ground in the San Joaquin Valley could be removed from production. Roseman said this would have dra matic impacts on growers, local towns
and cities, food supply and the state economy.
There is interest on both the state and local levels to make the impact tolerable, Roseman said, but he expects that demand reduction will be painful for the agriculture sector. Some of the reduction is drought-re lated, but some is due to Sustainable Groundwater Management Act compliance.
Roseman pointed out that as of early November, not a single management plan submitted by San Joaquin Valley groundwater sustainability agencies had been approved by California’s Depart ment of Water Resources.
While repurposing could reduce groundwater pumping and overall demand, the state is also exploring new storage and conveyance projects that would improve water supplies longterm, limiting the need for demand reductions. California has also recently made an effort to streamline ground water recharge projects that could be in place short-term, Roseman said, even for any available flows this winter.
SGMA Driving Efforts in Groundwater Management
SGMA, Roseman said, has high
lighted the interdependence of ground water basins in the Central Valley and it is driving efforts to address groundwa ter management. Regionally, he noted that creative solutions on supply and temporary demand reduction of agri cultural water influence the direction of land repurposing efforts.
Land could be returned to produc tion depending on the results of pilot projects and regional programs, which Roseman said are designed and devel oped with stakeholder input to fit the needs of individual basins.
“There is flexibility in land repurpos ing; it does not have to be permanent,” Roseman said.
There are voluntary funding pro gram options available for growers who
“There is flexibility in land repurposing; it does not have to be permanent.”
–Jesse Roseman, Almond Board of California
are facing water shortfall. These pro grams are aimed at addressing SGMA requirements, reducing land subsidence and supporting crop production in a smaller footprint.
The California Department of Con servation’s Multibenefit Land Repur posing Program is one pilot program
that growers of permanent crops could consider. The process for growers to receive funding through the MLRP has not been developed. This program is being developed for three pilot areas in the San Joaquin Valley. Initial funding will be available to growers located in the Greater Kaweah GSA, Pixley Irriga tion District and Madera County GSA.
The Greater Kaweah GSA and Kaweah subbasin partners were awarded a $10 million grant to support
development of tools for assessing and selection of multibenefit land repurpos ing activities. The partners will also de velop a multibenefit land repurposing plan. The plan will include strategies suited for the region. Projects selected for implementation will be conducted on lands least viable for irrigated agri culture and that contribute to resource connectivity.
The Pixley Irrigation District GSA program is designed to facilitate strate gic land retirement, restore habitat and protect water resources in the over drafted Tule subbasin.
The Madera County GSA will build on a Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation program grant used to prioritize land to remain in agricultural use and land designated for fallowing. Plans will be based on recharge potential, soil quality and water supply. Funding from the MLRP will expand the plan regionally and ex plore designation of habitat restoration. Funds will also be directed to incentive payments to landowners to repurpose marginal ag land for multiple benefits and water savings. Land adjacent to rural communities could be used for buffer zones and pollinator habitat.
Other state and federal programs open to almond growers to capture funding include the USDA Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Re serve Program. These 10- to 15-year contracts are for establishment of resource-conserving plant species to remove environmentally sensitive land from production.
The American Farmland Trust Regional Conservation Partnership Program has funds in the San Joa quin Valley for ag easements and land rentals. Projects are ranked based on access to a reliable water supply. This program promotes coordination with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which will fund conversion of ag land to floodplain habitat.
The California Department of Con servation Working Lands and Riparian Corridors Program offers watershed restoration grants.
More information on these pro grams can be found on the Almond Board of California website. Roseman said he sees possible opportunities in these programs for growers with permanent crops. Stakeholder input in these programs is important, he said, as they must fit the needs of the ground water basin.
These programs are aimed at reduc ing water use, he said, and while they are still in the beginning stages of de velopment, it is important for growers facing reduced water supplies to look at these programs as they may be a way to help with cash flow and the difficult decisions they are facing with reduced water supplies.
Roseman stressed that it will be an individual decision to participate in re purposing and conservation programs. These programs are voluntary, while compliance with SGMA is mandatory.
Growers of permanent crops will have their own set of challenges with shortfalls in water supplies, whether due to reductions in surface deliv eries or restrictions on groundwater pumping. Roseman said with difficult decisions ahead for many growers, he advised looking carefully at these funding options while recognizing that decisions will be up to each operation. There may be more programs in the works that extend the time to pull out and replant orchards, aimed at shortterm pumping reductions to help with basin stability, so it will be important to follow these programs and explore their usefulness to help maintain economic productivity.
Holiday Activities and Beyond for American PecansBy AMERICAN PECAN COUNCIL | Contributing Writer and AMERICAN PECAN PROMOTION BOARD | Contributing Writer
The American Pecan Promotion Board (APPB) is deploying a mar keting strategy starting this holiday season that is sure to cut through the normal holiday clutter. Competition for media attention is fierce during the holidays. The American Pecan Council (APC) intentionally shifted from health and snacking, which gets limited media coverage during the holiday season, to grab headlines with an out-of-the-box idea. Everyone knows pecans make a killer Thanksgiving pie. Candied, deli cious, irresistible, irreplaceable. But we
don’t stop at dessert or just one day.
The night before Thanksgiving is in the top five for most pizza sales during the entire year. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, APC intersected an existing cultural conversation with a surprisingly delicious pecan pizza pie consumers wouldn’t expect. Of course, the entire campaign of creating a Pecan Pizza Pie was designed to garner national attention from the media. Fur thermore, television commercials tout ing the various holiday recipes found on the eatpecans.com website and an
army of influencers posting to Insta gram, Reels, Facebook and Pinterest will solidify pecan’s No. 1 ranking as the top holiday nut.
Once the holidays are behind us, APC will continue to post messages on various social media channels and advertise using television com mercials across the U.S. Television commercials will appear on various video streaming platforms in Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Dallas, El Paso, Las Cruces, Phoenix and San Diego. Furthermore, the APPB is investing marketing dollars in Mexico to try and build consumption in Mexico. To support these efforts, APPB recently approved a research project to learn more about Mexican consumers and how best to influence nut consumption south of the border.
Nutrition and health research are crucial to amplify the health message for pecans. On APPB, the research committee will meet in the upcoming months to begin ramping up more pecan research. Keep an eye out on eat pecans.com for upcoming committee and Board meeting dates.
APPB Nominations for the Western Region
APPB has nominations for four seats in the Western region. The current seats are filled by Deborah Ralls, Kortney Chase, David Salopek and Phillip Arnold. Please reach out to the Board office if you have questions regarding nominations and how to submit.
Upcoming Dates: March Board Meeting Mark your calendars! The next APPB meeting is March 21, 2023. There
APC Council Members & Alternates
Region Western Western
Eastern Eastern Accumulator
Seat 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2
Louis J. Salopek
ALTERNATE TERM LIMIT
Deborah Walden Ralls
Phillip ArnoldJohn L. Heuler
Shannon F. IveyLalo Medina
Mike Spradling Randy Stephens
Larry D. Womack
Trent MasonAngie S. Ellis
Justin JonesBrent Brinkley
Lenny WellsMolly Willis
Blake HoustonVacancy VacancyVacancy
Jared Miller Jeff Worn Alex Willson
Vacancy Vacancy John Taylor
Will EasterlinMark Hamilton
Dr. Steve Blizzard Ron Hays
2026 2026 2024 2024 2024
Kortney Chase2024 2024 2024 2024 2026 2026 2026 2026 2024
* Please note, there are a few seats nominated to be filled from the Nov. 3rd 2022 Council meeting that are awaiting Secretary approval. The updated list will be published on the APC website once approved.
During the November 3rd Council meeting, the 2022-26 Council members and alternates were seated. The new officers are Larry Don Womack as Chairman, Deborah Ralls as Vice Chairwoman, Trent Mason as secretary and Lalo Medina as treasurer.
will also be a Pecan Congress which brings together all the pecan asso ciations, researchers, etc. to provide updates and open up for industry discussions.
2022 Crop Year Reporting for APPB
The 2022 crop year reporting is under way. The electronic reporting portal for APPB has been launched. The 2022 crop year runs from September 2022 to August 2023. All first handlers and importers will report the monthly forms through the portal at appbportal. com. Producers will also log in to the portal to submit all exemption and reimbursement forms. To register, visit the APPB portal website. If you have any questions regarding reporting for APPB, please reach out to the office at email@example.com or call (817) 985-3034.
American Pecan Council (APC)
APC continues to invest USDA Market Access Program funds in China and Germany. The APC International Com mittee recently concluded a research project which outlined ways of better developing India as a pecan-consuming nation. APC hopes to align itself with a marketing representative in India to begin retail promotions in 2023.
APC continues to conduct domestic marketing in two key areas in the U.S. The first area is social media influencing to meet consumers where they are scrolling through social me dia. On average, APC deploys about 15 Instagram, Reels and TikTok posts each month and reaches millions of followers in doing so. The second area of significance is APC efforts in the nutritional messaging space. APC con tinues to nurture its Pecan Powerhouse Network which currently has over 800 registered dieticians, nutritionists and physicians who make up the member body of this effective collaborating forum of professionals. Members are well versed in the nutritional benefits of pecans and share those benefits with their patients and clients. The Pecan
Powerhouse Network will continue to grow in 2023.
Lastly, APC plans to complete three areas of health re search in late 2023. These health studies are being conducted by Penn State University, the University of Colorado and the University of Georgia, and are focused on satiety, cardiovas cular health and cholesterol. Keep an eye out for an update on these research studies in a future article.
2022 Crop Year Reporting for APC and 2021 Data Recap
Another crop year has come to a close on August 31, 2022, which means the Year-End Inventory report for the 2021 crop year has been published by APC. The report shows roughly a 50% decrease in the net open position in the pecan industry from the previous year. The September 2022 pecan industry position report also shows a 31% decrease in total handler pecan inventory. The data working group under the American Pecan Council has focused on streamlining the layout and presentation of the industry reports and creat ing a very efficient and transparent program. Some recent updates to the monthly reports include summary graphs for a quick industry snapshot. You can view all industry data reports on the American Pecan website. APC publishes these handler analytics monthly, and it is the only data source to be audited and verified.
Pecan Council’s reporting portal located at pecanportal.com. The current 2022 crop year runs from September 2022 to Au gust 2023. If you have any questions regarding reporting for APC, please reach out to the office at forms@americanpecan. com or call (817) 916-0020.
Voluntary Quality Assurance Program
APC has been in development of a voluntary Quality Assur ance Program. Earlier this year, APC conducted an indus trywide survey and public comment period to receive all of industry’s feedback on the program. All the feedback was gathered and incorporated in updates to the program. The voluntary Quality Assurance Program working group under APC has reviewed the changes made to the Program. The program will now move for review by the committee and then final review and approval by the Council in the March Council meeting. In the meantime, APC is working on development templates and resources to help with participa tion of the program. Once the voluntary Program is ap proved by the Council, we will begin piloting the Program across each region.
New Council Seated
During the November 3rd 26 Council members and alternates were seated. welcome to the newly seated Council! The new officers are Larry Don Womack as Chairman, Deborah Ralls as Vice Chairwoman, Trent Mason as secretary and Lalo Medina as treasurer. We want to thank the following individuals that served on the previous Council and were involved in the start of the Federal Marketing Order: Mike Adams, Buck Paulk, Les Daviet, Larry Willson and Dan York.
Upcoming Dates: March APC meeting
The next American Pecan Council meeting is March 21, 2023. As previously mentioned, there will also be a Pecan Congress which brings together all the pecan associations, research ers, etc. which will follow the Board and Council meetings.
Nickels Soil Lab Research Review, Past and PresentBy FRANZ NIEDERHOLZER | UCCE Farm Advisor, Colusa and Sutter/Yuba Counties
With 2023 almost here, many nut crop growers face another challenging year. Nut prices remain low and costs of essential inputs (water, fertilizer, pesticides, etc.) are up. With net return to grower the measure of successful farming, the targets of consistent, solid yields and minimal costs to sustain those yields are crucial grower goals. What varieties, root stocks and practices deliver on these goals against downward pressures from
changing weather, pest and market pressures? Experience, research results or a combination of both guide the best possible decisions. California tree nut growers and their advisors espe cially need research results to face new challenges where little to no experience exists.
Nickels Soil Lab is a field research facility and an important resource for the California tree nut industry. Established through the bequest of
Leslie J. Nickels, the Nickels Soil Lab (NSL) is a 160-acre, private commercial farm operated for the public good by the Leslie J. Nickels Trust. In collabo ration with University of California the Colusa Water District and the Universi ty of California, NSL has hosted dozens of research projects, delivering real contributions to the knowledge base of California nut growers since the early 1970s. The annual spring field day at
NSL highlights the research done there. Here are some of the research questions and highlights of the past 30 years and potential benefits to growers.
Can microirrigation deliver good almond production?
In 1991, a 20-acre trial comparing tree growth and crop yield under microsprinklers, double-lined drip, single lined drip or buried drip irrigation was planted at NSL. Varieties were Nonpareil, Carmel, Monterey and Butte on Lovell root stock. Microsprinkler irrigation grew slightly bigger trees compared to surface and buried drip while crop yield was not significantly different all but a few years for vigorous va rieties. Both microsprinklers and surface drip delivered good production (average of 2200 to 2400 kernel/lb per acre) by 7th-leaf on the less vigorous (Class 2-3) soils of the Arbuckle region.
Is commercial walnut production feasible on Class 2-3 soil?
In the 1980s, most walnut acreage was on deep welldrained soil along major rivers. There was no history of suc cessful walnut production in the older soils along the valley edges. In 1986, John Edstrom, UCCE farm advisor for Colu sa County and NSL manager/researcher from 1984 to 2010,
planted two acres of Chandler walnuts on Paradox seedling or northern California black walnut rootstocks. Success of the Paradox rooted trees helped encourage development of other plantings on similar sites in the Central Valley.
What happens to almond production and tree health when trees are not irrigated for a year?
Research led Dr. Ken Shackel (UC Davis) tracked tree health and production in mature almonds at NSL previously well irrigated but not irrigated for an entire season (2009). Major crop loss for two years (2009 and 2010) resulted from that single year of water stress. In 2009, nut set was good and crop loss was mostly due to smaller nut size compared to nuts from well-watered trees. However, extreme water stress in 2009 reduced flower buds developing for the next spring. So, despite full irrigation in 2010, only a small crop was harvested that year due to much fewer flowers and fewer nuts resulting from the water stress the year before. The trees generally survived the extreme water stress and returned to good production the third year of the study under good irrigation practices.
If needed, can fall boron sprays increase yield?
Following up on work by Dr. Patrick Brown’s lab at UC Davis, trials at Nickels in 1995-97 consistently showed increases in almond yield of 150 to 400 kernel lb/acre from a single fall foliar spray of 3 lbs/acre of Solubor equal to 0.6 lbs actual boron/acre. Use of surface water for irrigation containing almost no boron plus 15 inches of winter rain leaching boron from the root zone soil were the primary contributors to the low boron levels of these trees.
Do you need annual pruning to get good, long-term production in almonds and walnuts?
No. Trials at NSL in almonds and walnuts show no production benefit from annual pruning after the first dormant pruning.
Almond orchards on what rootstocks last longer?
Peach/almond hybrids (Hanson, Brights, Nickels) and intraspecific hybrid (Viking) rootstocks delivered superior anchorage, tree survival and cumulative Nonpareil yield in a trial planted by John Edstrom and Stan Cutter (NSL farm manager since 1995) in 1997. Standing trees still yield well in the 26th leaf, but pro duction per acre suffers where more trees are missing. In this trial, Lovell and Nemaguard seedling rootstocks
Since 2015, The Leslie Nickels Trust has invested in new almond orchards and irrigation infrastructure* at NSL to best face an uncertain (weather, markets, water, etc.) future. There are new orchards with salt-tolerant rootstocks and high-value varieties as well as functioning wells. Older orchards with missing trees will be pushed out this winter to cut costs and improve overall returns.
However, the short-term economic future for NSL is uncertain. For years, careful management, timely big-ticket support*, good surface water availability and generally good prices have kept Nickels in the black despite higher costs of operating small (2 to 20 acres) research plots compared to larger blocks commonly farmed by growers. Nickels budget is now in the red. On top of that, NSL doesn’t qualify for crop insurance due to the use of unproven farming practices (research). NSL could use your help. Please consider a donation to support Nickels Soil Lab at myaglife. com/fundraiser/. All proceeds go directly into the NSL trust account to maintain the facility.
*The Almond Board of California supports major water projects at NSL, including new mainlines, well repair, etc., that NSL cannot cover. This has been particularly true in the last two years.
and Atlas intraspecific hybrid lost more trees and production than the “winners” listed above.
Does fall nitrogen fertilization pay (deliver positive return on investment) in almond orchards?
Not in a 3-year trial at Nickels in a productive orchard with ade quate July leaf nitrogen (N) levels (>2.4% N). Adding postharvest N (30 to 60 lbs N/acre in September or October) didn’t increase yields the following year. Based on these results and with UN32 at $800/ton ($1.25/lb N), not fertilizing almonds with N in the fall could save $35 to $75 per acre without changing yield.
What pollinizer varieties deliver the best overall returns when planted with Nonpareil?
In a 50% Nonpareil; 25% Pollinizer A; 25% Pollinizer B planting by John Edstrom and Stan Cutter in 2006, pol linizer production was the key to the best returns allowed by the weather. Pollination combos compared includ ed Monterey/Fritz, Aldrich/Winters or Winters/Monterey varieties, all on Lovell seedling rootstock under dou ble-lined drip. Differences in adjacent pollinizer varieties did not influence Nonpareil yield, but Monterey and Winters produced greater cumulative yields than Fritz or Aldrich. Fritz and Aldrich are not poor producers, but occasional off-years for those varieties made the difference in cumulative yield compared to more consistent production from Winters and Mon terey.
In the Sacramento Valley, does a solid Independence planting produce better yields and income than a high-value (75% soft shell) Nonpareil planting of 50% Nonpareil, 25% Sonora and 25% Aldrich?
GoogleEarth image of spacing trial, 2021. Miss ing trees to the right in a small block not part of the spacing trial and are the outcome of a trial testing whether paint protects trees from herbicide. We lost half an acre of trees. Another Nickels special experiment that probably wouldn’t “fly” in a grower’s orchard
split 50:50 from 2018-21 (6th to 9th leaf) with the Independence plant ing coming out on top in 2018 and 2021 and the Nonpareil/pollinizer planting in 2019 and 2020. This split occurred despite the smaller tree size of Independence at this site compared to Nonpareil and Sonora. Consistent Independence production and highly variable Sonora yields have been the major factors in comparing produc tion and value in this planting.
Questions Driving Recent and Current Trials
To support continued research at Nickels Soil Lab please join fellow growers and handlers in attending the NSL fundraising dinner on Dec. 16 in Woodland. Tickets can be purchased at myaglife.com/fundraiser.)
It depends on the year. In a 2013 planting (15’ x 20’) on Viking root stock under double-line drip irriga tion, highest annual gross income “winner” between the two plantings
Does a higher density almond planting improve production and grower income? In a trial planted in 2017, differences in down-the-row tree spacing (12’, 14’, 16’ or 18’ all with 21’ row spacing) on vigorous (Titan) or moderately vigorous (Rootpac-R) rootstocks under double-lined drip produced no significant yield differ ences within each rootstock, but trees were smaller at the closer row spac ings. The original almond tree spacing trial, planted by UCCE Stanislaus County Advisor Roger Duncan in 2000, produced similar results early in the orchard life. In Roger’s trial, yield per acre shrank in the wider-spaced trees compared to the closer-spaced trees as the orchard aged.
Can organic practices maintain almond production over time?
An organic almond demonstration
orchard planted at Nickels by John Edstrom and Bill Krueger in 2006 (Nonpareil and Fritz on Lovell root stock at 16’ x 22’ with buried drip irrigation) addresses this question. Annual production runs 60% to 80% of that from a conventionally farmed (identical layout) orchard planted at the same time. Weeds control is by propane flaming and foliar diseases by organic fun gicides. Managing root intrusion in the buried drip emitters and maintaining good nitrogen nutrition are now the major challenges.
Does spray volume (gallons per acre) make a difference in navel orangeworm (NOW) control?
Yes. Results of large-scale trials by Joel Siegel (USDA) and Matt Strmiska (formerly with Adaptiv in Fresno, now with EE Muir, Australia) showed that 200 GPA delivered better coverage and NOW control than 100 GPA. Research at Nickels showed similar results, especially in high worm (NOW) pressure years. Lowdrift nozzles delivered similar NOW control as stan dard hollow cone nozzles at the higher spray volume.
Questions Driving Recent Long-Term Projects
Does applying phosphorus fertilizer improve al mond production?
Can new rootstocks improve walnut orchard health and production compared to Paradox clones already in the market?
How does chipping and incorporat ing the old orchard (Whole Orchard Recycling) affect tree health and crop production in the next orchard? Do the chips change how the orchard grows with or without preplant fumigation to control nematodes and replant disor der?
That’s a quick overview of past and current projects at NSL. Directions for future research include evaluating new planting schemes, rootstocks, variet ies and farming practices to maintain positive net grower returns under rising input costs and market expecta tions. These new plantings, just in the planning stage now, should continue to deliver valuable information to the Cal ifornia tree nut industry and maintain the status of the Nickels Soil Lab as a valuable asset for California agriculture.
Despite the long list of challenges currently being faced by the California tree nut industry, leaders speaking at the California Tree Nut Conference highlighted some bright spots for growers.
Research into health benefits from tree nut consumption, technological advances in production and process ing, and the economic impact tree nut production has on the state are all positives for the industry, they agreed.
Water availability, increasing regulation and back log of inventory caused by shipping difficulties and supply/demand imbalances were some of the challenges listed.
Roundtable participants Richard Waycott, CEO of Almond Board of California; Richard Matoian, presi dent of American Pistachio Growers; and Robert Verloop, executive direc
From left, Jason Scott, CEO and Publisher of West Coast Nut magazine leads a leadership panel including Richard Waycott, CEO of Almond Board of California; Richard Matoian, president of American Pistachio Growers; and Robert Verloop, executive director and CEO of California Walnut Board and Commission (photo by M. Katz.)
tor and CEO of California Walnut Board and Commission answered a series of questions about their commodities and their direction in the future from West Coast Nut publisher Jason Scott.
Nutrition research is one of the ways all three tree nut industries can work together to achieve market growth. Each of the tree nuts is a unique commodity, Matoian pointed out, but they supply similar consumer wants. The Nutrition Research Education Foundation is funded by all three tree nut industries to prove health and nutrition benefits from consumption of almonds, pistachios and walnuts. Each commodity does individual research, Matoian said, but the Foundation is one way they work together.
Waycott noted that all three nut crops have a stake in improving movement of nuts for export and that they were all working on the Ocean Shipping Reform Act and were present for a meeting at the Oakland Port to show their support, one of the few voices there for agriculture, he added. All three commodity leaders were also working to negotiate better foreign market access.
From a political standpoint, the export value of the three nut crops should be recognized, Verloop said. Impediments to export in the ports are having a negative effect on these
commodities and impacting workers and communities.
“We are a $75-billion-a-year export product and we need to act like it,” Verloop said. “Ag as a whole needs to do that.”
Waycott stressed that water availability is the main issue for tree nut growers. Added to the list are higher production costs and the logistical nightmare of shipping product. Trade policies to put almonds on the same level with other com modities and access to credit at reasonable terms are needed, he said.
Verloop took aim at domestic marketing. Walnuts, he said, are being promoted as a healthy food, but in stores, they are found on the baking aisle; not the healthiest type of prod ucts nor does it represent adequate volume. Placing walnuts where consumers will find them, such as in the produce aisle, and ensuring quality will move them, he added.
Increasing government regulations are presenting chal lenges to tree nut growers, Matoian said. Making lawmakers aware of the impact of those regulations is important. Dis cussion of crop protection tools also needs to happen, Way cott said. The tree nut industries need to work with Foreign Agriculture Service and Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to set reasonable standards.
Waycott said EU’s “Green Deal” has the potential to limit the use of crop protection tools. In addition, he said many of the retaliatory tariffs remain in place, limiting market access.
Even with some exemptions, U.S. tree nuts are at a disad vantage with countries like Australia, which has negotiated much lower tariffs on its tree nuts. The Almond Alliance is working in Washington D.C. on a more positive approach to trade, he added.
Restrictions on pesticide use and lack of products regis tered for use were Matoian’s concerns. He noted that MRL issues with the EU could further limit shipments.
Verloop pointed out that crop insurance, particularly this year with heat damage to the walnut crop, was an area that needed attention. There is currently no insurance coverage for heat damage and Matoian said that coverage for other types of damage was low. Establishing standards would be a start and recognizing climate caused crop damage is import ant, though he said any changes would likely take years.
Importance of ongoing tree nut production research by University of California was stressed by all three industry leaders. Verloop said looking more closely at how consumers define walnut quality would help growers deliver a better product. Studying all stages of cold chain management of product and how it affects quality would also help growers.
“Our crop quality is what separates us from the competi tion,” Verloop said.
In the production research realm, Matoian said a focus on alternatives to pesticides would help with the regulatory pressure growers now face when they need to protect their crop from insect and disease damage. Mating disruption technology for navel orangeworm control was a win for growers, he said.
Additional focus on research to increase productivity would also be welcome. Matoian said the use of micronutri ents is now being embraced by tree nut growers following the
lead of grape growers. Along the same line, orchard spacing, tree training and pruning are areas where growers can improve productivity and possibly save on labor costs.
Development of rootstocks that are resistant to disease could help with the loss of crop protection tools, Waycott said. Use of biologicals to combat insect pests and development of a pheromone trap for leaffooted bug are all advances in pest control technology that help growers maintain healthy orchards.
Growers could also use a new look at stocking rates for pollination. Way cott said studies may show they can be reduced and save pollination costs without affecting yields.
Adding value to hulls and shells is another area under development by the almond industry and researchers.
New technologies could help pis tachio growers deal with the effects of warmer winters, Matoian said as synchronizing male and female trees
industry must deal with. New products to help break dormancy will be import ant in the future, he added.
When it comes to processing, Matoian said robotics will likely be the next step, eliminating some hand sorting lines. The ability of robotic sorters to identify NOW is key to use, but Matoian said sorting out aflatox in-infested nuts still presents a problem for identifying NOW damage.
Boosting demand for tree nut prod ucts means overcoming the current logistics issues that are challenging exports. Here again, Waycott said, is where new technologies are helping with creation of new products using byproducts. The biomass from almond orchards, health products from almond oil and energy bars made from hulls are examples. Verloop said expanding the definition of products that can be delivered with food assistance pro grams would help move more walnuts into domestic markets. New flavors
with improving shelf life of products, he said. The Food and Drug Admin istration’s new definition of healthy foods can trigger use of nuts in USDA programs.
Prices for this year’s crop will certainly have an impact, the industry leaders agreed. Verloop said there is so much product in the line now, and with the higher dollar reducing buying power in export markets, it will take a year or two to work through.
“There is a lot more product than what the market is demanding right now,” he said. In the future, Verloop noted, SGMA’s impacts as well as tree removal programs could reduce supply.
For those of you who follow our stories regularly, they are usually on some new regulation under devel opment or on one that recently went into effect. This month, California will not disappoint as they have released
yet another draft regulation. This time, the draft regulation comes from the Cal/OSHA Standards Board and is a regulation covering workplace violence. Entitled “Workplace Violence in All Industries,” the draft regulations set
forth new regulatory requirements for all employers, including farms.
Now, I know what you are think ing. Workplace violence on farms? Is this really the pressing issue that warrants another entire regulation on the already beleaguered businesses in California?
This new regulation will require businesses to have a written plan, conduct training, keep records and conduct investigations on every single accident related to violence in the workplace. All of this are subject to Cal/ OSHA inspections and fines.
When we think of “workplace violence,” what comes to mind? Being robbed at gunpoint? Coworkers fight ing? Cal/OSHA is stating that “work place violence” means any act of vio lence or threat of violence that occurs in a place of employment, including the following:
The threat or use of physical force against an employee that results in, or has a high likelihood of resulting in, injury, psychological trauma, or stress, regardless of whether the employee sustains an injury.
An incident involving the threat or use of a firearm or other dan gerous weapon, including the use of common objects as weapons,
regardless of whether the employee sustains an injury.
Four workplace violence types
• “Type 1 violence” means workplace violence committed by a person who has no legitimate business at the worksite and includes violent acts by anyone who enters the workplace with the intent to commit a crime.
• “Type 2 violence” means workplace violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, stu dents, inmates or visitors.
• “Type 3 violence” means workplace violence against an employee by a present or former employee, super visor or manager.
• “Type 4 violence” means workplace
violence committed in the work place by someone who does not work there but has or is known to have had a personal relationship with an employee.
Knowing this, each employer must then establish, implement and main tain an effective workplace violence prevention plan in writing and make this available to all employees at all times. This workplace violence pre vention plan is extremely detailed and must include information on how to communicate the plan, how to respond to reports of workplace violence and how to involve the workers in the plan. It must also include the method on how workers get alerted of workplace violence and where and how they evac uate. Then the company must create and maintain a “Violent Incident Log” that chronicles and details every single incident. Employers must also provide
effective training and keep records of all this for a minimum of one year and must keep the “Violent Incident Log” for five years.
Here’s our advice to readers: If this regulation is passed, be prepared. Get a written plan, implement it and get your employees trained. If you don’t like this new requirement, then you need to let Cal/OSHA know that more regulations are not needed here. And tell the state legislature they need to keep criminals in jail where they belong because this entire effort is simply a solution looking for a problem. And the problem isn’t the workplace!