How Almond & Nut Growers Can Improve Production with Chemical-Free Soil Improvements and Enhanced Root Zone Conditions
Almonds are a Growing Market, Especially in California
The global market for almonds and almond-based foods like almond milk, almond paste, and almond flour grew exponentially over the last two decades and is expected to continue to grow at a compound adjusted growth rate (CAGR) of 5.44% to $11.8 billion by 2027 from $8.2 billion in 2020, according to Global Almond Market. Almond milk alone has a projected annual growth rate of 15.2% globally from 2022-2030.
Nowhere has this growth been more consequential than in California, which produces 100% of the almonds consumed commercially in the U.S. and 82% of the worldwide almond supply. Almonds are California's top agricultural export and the largest tree nut crop in both total dollar value and acreage. They also rank as the largest U.S. specialty crop export. Almonds displaced dairy products and grapes as California’s top-valued agricultural export commodity, with a value of more than $4.9 billion in foreign sales in 2019, an increase of 8% from the previous year.
This happy economic story has made many California almond growers prosperous, but the good news may be short-lived. Almonds put an enormous strain on the land and water resources needed to grow the crop, which poses serious challenges to its long-term sustainability.
Water & Almond Production
By far the largest problem is the almond’s disproportionate need for water, a hotly contested resource in the American West to begin with. According to the Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability at Columbia University, “almonds are water-guzzlers, needing around two liters of water for each kernel.”
Making matters worse is that, unlike other crops, almonds must be grown year-round, requiring constant water input. Most other crops can be allowed to lie fallow for a year without causing damage to the plant, but almond orchards can’t recover the same way. After a few months without water the trees die. Farmers must use commonly expensive well water to maintain the crop. The high price of that water drives farmers to plant even more almond trees in order to turn a profit. This vicious cycle is depleting California’s groundwater reserves at a massive rate, exacerbating the water crisis brought on by the drought.
Nanobubbles: A Sustainable Irrigation Solution for Almonds
Maricopa Orchards – Inline Irrigation
- Reduced soil compaction
In addition, Coehlo saw that the 46-inch profile of soil had reduced salt content. The initial findings showed a significant improvement in water infiltration and salt leaching. With the consideration of many additional benefits, Moleaer’s “nanobubble technology shows great promise,” said Coelho. “The product could be a much more comprehensive solution to issues caused by soil and water salinity.”
Prodalmen Chile Trial – Reservoir Treatment
Chile is another major producer of almonds, with 10000 hectares producing 31.9K metric tons of the nut annually. At Prodalmen, a large grower in Santiago, the company uses a 6.6-million-gallon reservoir to irrigate their almond orchard. Reduced water quality from low levels of dissolved oxygen (DO) and increased disease pressure in the reservoir negatively impacted plant health. To improve the irrigation water quality in the reservoir, Prodalmen installed a Moleaer XTB™ 250 GPM (56 m3/h) nanobubble generator.