Few environmental factors have more influence on growers' success than soil health, which impacts everything from irrigation efficiency to yield outcomes. So it makes sense that the global leader in crop nutrition, Yara North America, has made soil health the focus of the BetterSoil Alliance, a collaborative effort aimed at boosting sustainability efforts in California almonds.
The BetterSoil Alliance is an initiative of Yara North America, Heliae Agriculture, and other industry leaders that looks to help the California almond industry develop and pursue new sustainable farming practices. Ceres Imaging signed on to the alliance in 2022, joining industry partners Phytec and PhycoTerra® who share common goals: increasing water and nitrogen use efficiency and decreasing the industry's carbon footprint. Improving soil health is a promising route toward both objectives.
A commitment to knowledge-sharing
Founded in Norway in 1905 in response to the threat of famine, Yara was the first company to produce nitrogen fertilizers on a commercial scale. Today, the company prioritizes the development of nutrient products with lower carbon footprints, and is an industry leader in using renewable energy for fertilizer production.
The BetterSoil Alliance was born from Yara's commitment to share the solutions and knowledge gained from its research farms in Canada, Alabama, Washington, and California. Each Incubator Farm focuses on regional crops: in Modesto, Yara experiments with a variety of nutrient management programs and measures the environmental and physiological response of almonds and walnuts to different conditions.
Photo courtesy Yara North America
The successes of Yara’s MyAlmonds program—a proactive nutrient management fertilization schedule driven by the changing needs of almond trees—demonstrated that strategic nutrition management and a focus on soil health could have far-reaching implications across agriculture.
Sharing those insights—and collaborating on additional research into sustainability practiced regenerative agriculture—is Yara's approach to maximizing impact. Through the BetterSoil Alliance, members can leverage each other's expertise to benefit their grower customers.
“At the foundation of the Better Soil Alliance is the belief that through industry partner collaboration we can accelerate the deployment of critical solutions that will support the long-term viability of the almond industry,” says Debbie Watts, Vice President of Yara North America. “Our new partners—Ceres Imaging and Phytech—bring valuable insight, opportunities to bring the solutions to more acres, and, most importantly, tools that are already delivering positive, measurable changes to grower practices."
How analytics tools boost soil health efforts
Ceres was a natural fit for the BetterSoil Alliance, providing aerial data and analytics expertise. "Ceres shares our industry service mindset, looking at ways we can make the entire value chain more productive,” says Trey Cutts, Ph.D. agronomist and marketing development director for Yara. "Ceres’ unique imagery provides better resolution than satellite imagery, enabling us to determine how practices and products are impacting productivity."
Cover crops are one strategy for improving soil health.
The quantification tools and level of detail Ceres provides makes it possible to more accurately measure the impact of different applied nutrients and environmental stressors to almond trees' canopy health. Cutts believes that a better understanding of how trees respond to water stress and high temperatures could be a game-changer for producers contending with increasingly tough growing conditions.
“Recognizing the immense amount of pressure placed on farmers, and the threats to agriculture in the uniquely productive central valley of California—economic pressures, rising costs of inputs, and lack of access to water—the goal of the alliance is to identify farm-based solutions by improving soil health,” Cutts says.