Water efficiency, bee health and farming methods are just three subjects that will be the focus of 56 independent, third party research projects that are now possible after the Almond Board of California announced on Thursday that it would provide a $2.5 million commitment to research.
“We’ve made great strides in building a sustainable industry over the past 40 years,” said Almond Board CEO Richard Waycott. “Because of the industry’s commitment to research and efficiency, growers use 33 percent less water to grow a pound of almonds than they did two decades ago.”
“Today’s investment will fuel the next round of innovation to ensure we continue to grow healthy, nutritious food while improving water efficiency and continuing to protect our pollination partners,” continued Waycott.
The funding is part of an ongoing effort by the almond community to develop innovative production practices that lead to continued improvement in efficient and sustainable farming.
Today’s funding approval allows a natural progression of research efforts by the Almond Board that enable almond growers to be good stewards of the land. In the last two decades, industry-funded research overseen by ABC allowed farmers to reduce the amount of water they use per pound of almonds by 33 percent. It has also helped develop orchard practices that better promote healthy environments for honey bees.
Among the 56 projects approved for funding are 13 water projects, adding on to the 91 irrigation research projects that ABC has funded since 1982. These projects have led to improvements in farming practices including advanced irrigation systems and irrigation decision support tools, among others.
Nine honey bee health projects were also approved for funding on Thursday. The ABC reported that it has invested more to research related to honey bee health than any other crop since 1995. This includes researching solutions to Varroa mite and other honeybee pest and disease management, nutrition and honey bee forage, lack of honey bee genetic diversity, impact of pesticides, and technical assistance for beekeepers.
Funding was approved in order to continue supporting the California Almond Sustainability Program, which is a self-assessment and education program that documents almond growers’ and handlers’ achievements in adopting cost-effective, environmentally and socially responsibly practices. CASP also highlights where opportunities for improvements exist.
Topics covered through CASP include irrigation management, nutrient management, air quality, water quality, energy efficiency, ecosystem, financial management and pest management. The program is also currently developing and deploying innovative grower decision support tools, which are designed by peer growers, peer handlers, and university experts.
The projects were selected from over 70 proposals by a research advisory committee of independent experts who assess the proposals for scientific merit and two committees of almond growers and processors. The volunteer committee members evaluate the proposals for strategic alignment to industry needs and anticipated impact of the research. The research is funded through an assessment paid on each pound of almonds produced.
ABC’s announcement regarding its $2.5 million commitment to independent, third party research into next-generation farming practices has merited praise from both the Almond Hullers & Processors Association and Bill Lyons, former California Secretary of Agriculture.
“The Almond Hullers & Processors Association applauds the Almond Board of California’s continuing financial support for new independent research into the latest innovations in production practices,” said AHPA President Kelly Covello. “The latest $2.5 million investment by ABC builds on a two-decade research commitment and will support 56 different projects that will help growers in a number of vital areas.”
“As a California almond grower, I am very proud of the ongoing financial commitment by the Almond Board of California to independent, third party research into the next generation of innovative production practices,” said Lyons. “Over the past 20 years, ABC research has helped growers become even better stewards of the land, water and environment.”