ALMOND LEVY INDUSTRY SNAPSHOT

Almond

From boosting orchard productivity and managing pests, to delivering strong communications and industry insights, Hort Innovation continues to invest the almond R&D levy in a number of key projects for the industry. Read about these and other current initiatives in the R&D snapshot.

INDUSTRY UPDATE

After you’ve read about the almond industry’s current levy investments and outcomes in this edition of Hortlink, check out Hort Innovation’s almond grower page here. The grower page remains your one-stop-shop for industry information, including:

  • Important updates regarding the almond Strategic Investment Plan (SIP), as available. Developed in close consultation with growers and other industry stakeholders, the SIP is a document outlining the priorities for strategic investment in the industry. It is to be used like a ‘roadmap’ by the almond Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) when providing advice to Hort Innovation on potential levy investments.
  • The latest updates regarding the almond SIAP, including details on the panel’s recently appointed chair, Claude Gauchat, and summaries from all SIAP meetings to date. The SIAP last met in early February and is due to convene again on March 22.
  • The 2015/16 almond industry annual report, detailing activities from the previous financial year.
  • Grower resources, events and articles of interest to the almond industry.

Any questions?

As well as Hort Innovation’s almond grower page, Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Corrine Jasper is always available to answer questions on the almond program on 0439 433 885 or at corrine.jasper@horticulture.com.au.

R&D SNAPSHOT

NEW, ONGOING AND COMPLETED PROJECTS FOR THE INDUSTRY

Management of Carpophilus beetle in almonds (AL15004)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project was established in 2016 in response to industry concern about the impact and management of Carpophilus beetles in almond production, after confirmation that the beetles were present in almost 70 per cent of almond plantings. The project aims to develop a cost-effective management system to control the pest, without increasing secondary pest issues.

It is:

  • Investigating the potential of the Carpophilus Attract & Kill system for use in almonds (currently used in stone-fruit orchards)
  • Developing understanding of the biology, ecology and distribution of Carpophilus species in almonds
  • Screening candidate pesticides.

What’s the latest update? The project is currently using a 420-hectare almond orchard with a history of Carpophilus to investigate population distribution, estimate the active radius of traps, and to determine the optimum number of traps required to monitor population levels.

Work in the laboratory has also begun to study the effect of pesticides on Carpophilus mortality. Initial results have been generated for insecticide Cormoran – but at the time of reporting to Hort Innovation, the researchers noted seasonal conditions had restricted access to sufficient beetle populations to establish large laboratory colonies for replicating the tests. Further testing is needed.

The project has also produced an updated fact sheet, Managing Carpophilus Beetle: Monitoring and Attract and Kill 2016-17 Season, which is available from Hort Innovation here.

Better tree performance and water use efficiency through root system resilience (AL13009)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Established in 2014 and due for completion in 2019, this project is being conducted as part of a coordinated research program into boosting almond productivity and profitability. It specifically aims to support more informed rootstock choice, more efficient irrigation strategies and more efficient use of nutrition.

What’s the latest update? To date:

  • 12 rootstocks have been assessed for resilience to soil-water deficit and high soil conductivity (as described in previous editions of Hortlink)
  • A further eight rootstocks are currently being assessed in glasshouse studies during the 2016/17 growing season
  • Root function is continuing to be assessed under different irrigation and nutrition regimens at the project’s field site. The use of ‘minirhizotron tubes’ for regular photographic imaging will allow the direct determination of root phenology, growth and turnover, and analysis over time will demonstrate the impact of the water and nitrogen regimens on these factors
  • As reported in the last edition of Hortlink, sap-flow sensors were installed in-field in 24 trial trees at the start of the 2016/17 season. These will allow whole-season tree water use to be monitored. In combination with canopy and yield data, the results will allow whole-tree water use efficiency to be determined and linked with irrigation and nutrient treatments, as well as root density and growth.

The December 2016 issue of Australian Nutgrower featured articles on this project, including “Better tree performance through root system resilience”, which provided a general project overview.


Almond rootstock genotypes

Almond rootstock genotypes during glasshouse screening for stress tolerance, as part of project AL13009


Pollination as a controlling factor in almond yield (AL14004)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Established in 2014 and due for completion later this year, this project is being conducted as part of a coordinated research program into boosting almond productivity and profitability. It specifically examines the effect of increased pollination on the number and size of nuts in different parts of the tree.

What’s the latest update? As described in previous editions of Hortlink, results from the 2014 and 2015 flowering seasons included that:

  • Hand pollination at spur level increased fruit set at spur level
  • Spurs at higher light supported more nuts
  • Whole-tree pollination (using a spray of pollen in water with boron) raised whole tree yield
  • Trade-offs at spur level between size and number of fruit can be detected, but are very small effects
  • Sequential flowering of spurs between years is rare.

During the 2016 flowering season, treatment regimens were refined, particularly to look closer at the whole-tree-spraying approach to pollination. This was to determine if the effects on yield seen previously may be related to the boron in the spray solution. Treatments included:

  • Open pollination
  • Hand pollination of spurs and whole-tree spray including boron and pollen
  • Hand pollination of spurs and whole-tree spray including boron but no pollen.

These pollination experiments were carried out in August last year, while leaf measurements and counts of initiated fruit were done in November. Based on the amount of fruit present at this time, the average number of fruit per spur (only considered those that flowered in the 2016 season) was zero to two. The hand-pollinated spurs had a lower frequency of zero fruit scores and a higher frequency of twos, threes and fours than open-pollinated controls.

From the data, the researchers note there was no clear difference in the patterns between hand-pollinated spurs from previous years, and the use of hand pollination plus whole-tree spraying this year.

Leaf measurements were to allow the researchers to examine whether spurs with more leaves also support more flowers, or more fruit.

Whole-tree harvest and spur-level fruit collection was due to take place during February this year.

Once submitted to Hort Innovation, comprehensive results will be included in a future edition of Hortlink.

Managing almond production in a variable and changing climate (AL14006)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Commencing in 2015 and expected to conclude in 2019, this project is conducting a detailed analysis of climate data in order to assess and prioritise key climate risks for the main almond growing regions in Australia. These risks include heat waves, droughts, untimely rainfall and insufficient chilling units of cold weather. The project will also suggest options for managing these risks.

What’s the latest update? The project continues to investigate management options for key climate risks, and continues to develop tools for how decisions around these management options can be made by almond businesses.

With rain at harvest previously identified as one of the industry’s most important weather and climate risks, recent work in the project has involved creating a framework for making a management decision prior to potential rain – whether to go ahead and shake, or to delay harvest and leave fruit on the trees – based on cost-benefit risk analysis. Work in this area is ongoing.

The project is also developing a ‘phenology’ model for almonds, detailing the timing of crop development under Australian climatic conditions. Information from this model will be valuable in managing pests and diseases, ensuring high levels of pollination, scheduling harvest and scheduling other business operations.

Finally, the project continues to study trial trees in orchards and pot-based experiments to look at ‘meso-climates’ (the specific climates of particular orchard sites) and tree phenology and physiology. To date, the researchers report that meso-climate differences related to elevation exist between the different field locations, and that the effects of elevation on daily temperatures are unique to each location.

Identifying factors that influence spur productivity in almond (AL14005)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Established in 2015, this project is being conducted as part of a coordinated research program into boosting almond productivity and profitability. Because yield fluctuations are not well understood, this project aims to achieve improved almond production by advancing understanding of the physiological factors that drive productivity/determine fruit and kernel yield from season to season. It is investigating the behaviour of fruiting spurs of Nonpareil and Carmel almond cultivars, and is looking at environmental and management factors including tree architecture, light interception, irrigation and nutrition.

What’s the latest update? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Spring 2016). At the time of last reporting, data collection and analysis was continuing, with the number of spurs, the weight of kernels and the weight per kernel produced by trees in the study being collected.

Chemical analysis of leaves had also been conducted to determine the effect of a reduced-nitrogen application treatment on trial trees. Results from both 2015 and 2016 showed this treatment decreased the amount of nitrate nitrogen and total nitrogen in the leaves, while increasing amounts of magnesium and potassium.

At the time of last reporting, machine-hulled and shelled kernels from one of the cultivars in the study, Nonpareil, had also been assessed for visible carob moth damage. The reduced nitrogen did not appear to have an effect on visible damage, but kernels that had received reduced water had higher amounts of damage.

Almond industry statistics and data collection 2017-2019 (AL16003)

Status: New project

What’s it all about? Now getting underway, this project will collect industry statistics and make them readily available to growers and other industry stakeholders. This information is intended to allow almond businesses and the broader industry to make timely and effective decisions in planning and resource prioritisation.

Specific project activities will include:

  • Ongoing collection of domestic and international almond statistics, disseminated through the In A Nutshell industry newsletter
  • Annual Almond Planting Surveys
  • Production of the annual statistics report, Almond Insights
  • Production of crop forecasts (at least annually)
  • Production of quarterly position reports.

What’s the latest update? With the project only recently commencing, a more detailed update will be provided in future editions of Hortlink

Australian almond industry communications program (AL16000)

Status: New project

What’s it all about? This program follows on from completed project Australian almond industry communications (AL11005). Like its predecessor, it continues to provide a broad range of timely information to Australian almond growers and other industry stakeholders, to keep the almond community well informed and in a place to make improved business decisions.

What’s the latest update? Communication channels that will continue to be produced and maintained under the new communications program include the In A Nutshell quarterly industry newsletter, the industry website (www.australianalmonds.com.au) and its grower/levy payers’ portal (www.growing.australianalmonds.com.au). The project will also be responsible for the production of media releases promoting key research findings and events, and utilise social media, video and face-to-face communications.

Almond productivity: Tree architecture and development of new growing systems (AL14007)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Established in 2014 and due for completion in 2019, this project is being conducted as part of a coordinated research program into boosting almond productivity and profitability. It has a specific focus on tree architecture and the development of new growing systems.

What’s the latest update? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Spring 2016). At the time of last reporting, project trials had been expanded. After originally beginning with the establishment of trial sites on two separate properties in Lindsay Point, Victoria, in 2014, the expansion involved establishment of a new trial in the Riverina region and two new trials in the Riverland region. A further trial planting was also set to take place near Hillston, New South Wales.

The Riverina and Riverland trials were to look at new growing systems for new varieties, with the objective of quantifying growth responses to pruning regimens better suited to high-density planting systems.

At the time of last reporting, trial plans had also been agreed – and plant material ordered from nurseries – for new projects to be established in winter 2017. With the project progressing, new trial plots are set to look at optimised trunk girdling, high-density orchards optimised for new varieties and rootstocks, and more.

Advanced processing of almonds (AL12003)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project aims to address some of the industry’s priorities relating to post-harvest processing of almonds. Since kicking off in 2013, in partnership with the University of South Australia, it has evolved to support:

  • A PhD student undertaking research into effective aeration and dehydration of bulk almonds in silos, bunkers and sheds
  • A post-doc Research Fellow undertaking research into the effective hulling of almonds in-field and during processing, as well as into improved cracking of almonds
  • Work into technologies to sense temperatures of almonds and their waste in stockpiles, to yield map almond pick-up in the orchards, to compare methods of storing bulk almonds and to develop almond hulling, cracking and cleaning equipment (through the use of final-year mechanical engineering and electrical engineering students).

What’s the latest update? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Spring 2016). At the time of last reporting, for aeration and dehydration, one of the students had developed a model for the dehydration of almonds; designed and implemented a series of in-situ sensors for temperature and humidity to develop a closed-loop aeration control system; and had this system installed in the drying shed of a South Australian grower.

The system controls multiple fans to regulate almond dehydration and re-humidification, and was presented at a field day during 2016. A wireless imminent waste stockpile fire warning system had also been designed and demonstrated.

A harvest time ‘decision matrix’ had also been developed to look at the effects of harvesting at different stages of hull split. Work was ongoing here, along with the analysis of samples.

For almond hulling, ongoing work was investigating methods of achieving hulling and cleaning at rates of 100t/hour, with up to 60 per cent of the fruit hulled in a single pass and with less than five per cent creation of loose kernels. The process was presented to industry at grower meetings last year.

Other R&D projects of note…
  • Australian almond industry innovation and adoption program (AL16001), a new project will help provide technical advice to growers, facilitate the adoption of R&D and identify and develop initiatives to address capacity-building requirements of the industry.
  • Almond study tour (AL16701), a new project that will support continued relationship building and collaboration with the Californian and Spanish almond industries.
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2017-06-23T13:50:40+00:00