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July 5, 2011

Environmental Stewardship Tour Demonstrates Complexities of Sustainable Almond Farming

Almond Board of California
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The Almond Board's Environmental Stewardship Tour in May illustrated to regulators, public policy makers and the media how California Almond growers have shifted production practices over time to address environmental issues while improving profitability.

Modesto almond grower Merlyn Garber hosted the tour on the land where he was raised. About 20 regulators and other guests toured his 30-year-old flood-irrigated almond orchard, juxtaposed against a newly planted block under micro-irrigation, to see how things have changed, thanks in part to decades of research supported by the Almond Board of California

Garber Almond Ranch was an early participant in the Pest Management Alliance (PMA), helping to commercially validate more environmentally friendly practices for insect control. Many of those practices have since become standard for California Almond growers.

Roger Duncan, almond farm advisor and Stanislaus County director for the UC Cooperative Extension office, explained how farm advisors were key in sharing the knowledge gained from the PMA and other research, thus helping almond growers improve productivity and sustainability.

Garber’s pest control adviser, Art Bowman, displayed various tools used in the orchard to monitor and trap pests, as well as track information to determine the best timing of applied pest control products.

An early adopter of shredding almond prunings, Garber demonstrated how his Flory Pow’rTrak shredder has eliminated the need for burning prunings each year.

Lunchtime presentations featured talks from representatives of industry partners, including the Coalition for Urban Renewal and Environmental Stewardship and SureHarvest, as well as UC Davis researcher Patrick Brown, who described a multiyear, industry- and USDA-funded project on almond fertility.

The day concluded with a tour of Salida Hulling and Shelling, where Garber is a cooperative member, to hear the latest on solar installation and new technologies for dust reduction that have been installed at the new facility.