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Field evaluation of almond varieties

“The first thing we have to accept is there is no such thing as a perfect variety,” said Roger Duncan, the University of California Cooperative Extension’s Stanislaus County director. “Even nonpareil, around for over 100 years, the premium variety, we know it still has its problems.”

Duncan, addressing a group of growers in Modesto this year, presenting research examining the pros and cons of various varieties of almonds.

Yield is important, Duncan said, but so is price.

“Eight out of 10 years, the butte padre outproduced nonpareil,” he said. “But, when you look at the price, you can see the price differential went from 15 cents up to 64 cents. We had higher income eight out of ten years for nonpareil. So yield can’t be the only thing we think about here, we have to think about the price differential.”

The importance of price is simple:

“If you’re being paid 20% less, that means you have to produce 20% more.” Duncan said.

Price may become even more important relative to yield in the near future, he said.

“The good news or bad news is we’re anticipating a 20% increase in almond production by the year 2020,” Duncan said. “What happens when..I don’t want to say (there’s) oversupply, but supply is outpacing demand for period of time? Quality becomes more important.”

Whatever a grower’s preference is for their favorite variety, bloom time is a key factor that can’t be ignored, Duncan said.

“If you’re planting 50/50 acreage, I don’t think you can have more than a two day difference (in bloom time) unless you’re planting three varieties,” he told growers.

Butte is too late to be an efficient pollinating companion to nonpareils, he said. Even Monterey is on the edge for bloom time meaning that growers may want to put a third variety in.

“There are new varieties coming out all the time,” Duncan said, adding that if he were a new grower, he wouldn’t take a risk on a new variety versus the ones that have been around.

Duncan said that not withstanding, he believes that self-fruitful varieties are the future of the industry.

One key reason is that with a harvest, there’s 50% less dust.

“We have a lot of numbered varieties out of UC Davis, and many of these varieties are self-fruitful,” Duncan said. “There will be new self-fruitful varieties coming on the market.”

UC researchers continue to collect field data on new varieties, he said, so growers should watch out for more information in the years to come.

Eliot Caroom

Eliot wrote about AgTech, aerial images, and other farming topics for Ceres Imaging. His past work includes local newspaper reporting, oil market news, and covering sustainable investing.

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