ALMOND FUND SNAPSHOT

Almond

See how the almond levy is hard at work! Scroll down to learn about Hort Innovation’s current investment of the industry levy, and results from these investments, in the R&D snapshot – or click on a project name below to go straight to a specific update. Also look for the ‘ACT NOW’ tag to easily identify project resources ready to use.

All projects are funded by Hort Innovation using the almond R&D levy and contributions from the Australian Government. In some projects, additional funding sources are also used.

INDUSTRY UPDATE

Don’t forget to grab the Almond Fund Annual Report

Released at the start of November, Hort Innovation’s Almond Fund Annual Report sums up all levy investments and activities from 2016/17. You can download a copy here, or head to Hort Innovation’s Annual Report Portal to place an order for a free hard copy of the report.

What research do you want to see?

As always, Hort Innovation encourages all growers and industry participants to share their thoughts and ideas for the research they want to see – whether that’s within the industry-specific Almond Fund (where research is funded by grower levies and Australian Government contributions), or within Hort Innovation’s strategic partnership initiative, Hort Frontiers (where research is funded through partnerships with co-investors).

Watch this video to see how ideas are collected and grown into projects, then submit your suggestions for new projects here.

Get closer to your investments with free membership

Hort Innovation membership brings you closer to the investment activities and results in your levy fund, and to the organisation as a whole. As well as providing the opportunity for voting rights at the company’s Annual General Meeting, membership helps you connect with your industry’s Relationship Manager, sends Hortlink straight to your inbox for first-look access, provides exclusive Grower Intel alerts with industry-specific news and opportunities, and more.

Paying a levy doesn’t automatically make you a member, so read more here and sign up now!

Find resources on the Hort Innovation Almond Fund page…

Along with Hortlink, Hort Innovation’s webpage for almond levy payers is a great source of info. On it you’ll find:

  • Key documents including the Almond Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) for 2017-2021, released earlier in 2017, and the Almond Fund Annual Report
  • The latest meeting notes from the almond Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP), which most recently met in Loxton in August 2017, and is due to meet again during March 2018
  • Current financial documents regarding your levy, including operating statements and expenditure summaries for R&D projects
  • Grower resources, events and articles of interest to the industry.
Any questions?

Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Corrine Jasper is always available to answer questions or provide info on the Almond Fund program. She can be reached on 0439 433 885 or at corrine.jasper@horticulture.com.au.

R&D SNAPSHOT

NEW, ONGOING AND COMPLETED PROJECTS FOR THE INDUSTRY

Identifying factors that influence spur productivity in almond (AL14005)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: The Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR)

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 spurs bear the vast majority of fruit (nuts) on almond varieties used in Australia, spur population dynamics are of interest in understanding yield fluctuations and trying to maintain high yields from season to season. To this end, this project is investigating the behaviour of fruiting spurs of Nonpareil and Carmel almond cultivars, and is looking at the effects of environmental and management factors including tree architecture, light interception, irrigation and nutrition.

What’s the latest update? Nitrogen and water supply strongly influence spur leaf area and leaf function (photosynthesis), and these in turn are strong indicators of whether a spur will survive from season to season, and whether it will bear a fruit.

Nitrogen and irrigation supply treatments designed to alter shoot growth and spur behaviour have been applied for two consecutive seasons in the project’s trials. The researchers will be continuing to track the fate of individual spurs in the trial trees over multiple years, and under a variety of management conditions, to describe the factors that influence a spur’s longevity, and to develop better ways to manage orchards. They note that continuity of treatment application is critical as spurs may live for several seasons, though they rarely bear fruit in two consecutive seasons.

So far, reducing water supply to 70 per cent of crop evapotranspiration (Etc) has decreased stem water potential (the ‘gold standard’ for assessing tree water status) in both Nonpareil and Carmel varieties on all measurement dates over the two seasons – though the effect was greater on some days than others. The effect of restricted water supply on Nonpareil tree water status was largely uninfluenced by nitrogen supply, but although the water status of Carmel trees was affected by nitrogen supply, clear trends were difficult to discern.

The survival and fruiting of a large number of spurs across the trees in the various treatments is currently being assessed, as is the leaf area per spur.

ACT NOW
 

The below posters remain available for growers, summarising preliminary findings from the project…

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

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: Plant & Food Research Australia

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? The project has a number of ongoing field trials involving pruning and light management studies. There are a number of areas of investigation, including but not limited to…

  • The use of ‘selective limb-removal pruning’ (removing the shoulder branches of cropping trees) and reflective ground covers. Here the aim is to increase light interception and, by extension, yield in the lower areas of the tree, boosting overall tree yield. So far, while treatments have increased kernel yield in the lower canopy zones, the crop produces in these zones have been late to mature compared to the main crop at the tops of the trees, resulting in a need for additional harvests. Work is ongoing in this area.
  • The use of ‘small tree pruning’, including selectively removing strong branches growing out towards the centre of the rows, resulting in a ‘palmette’ style tree shape.  Here the goal is to reduce shading and increase return bloom in the interior of the trees. If found to be a successful system of pruning, this would allow for closer row spacing in new plantings – increasing growers’ yields per hectare. The researchers report that a trial site established in 2012 continues to provide useful data on a pruning system that would allow 3m x 5m close row spacing, with data continuing to be collected during the 2017/18 season. A narrow palmette-style trial in a separate orchard is further evaluating the potential of this type of pruning system applied to young almond trees, with the first treatments applied in August 2017.
  • The use of trunk girdling to increase flowering, with the trees involved set to be monitored through the summer of 2018. Look for updates in future editions of Hortlink.
  • Studies into ‘central leader trees’ (with a single dominant trunk) and rootstocks. Here, four rootstocks and four almond cultivars are being trialled for suitability with central-leader training, with flowering and canopy development being monitored. The researchers note the first significant crop from this trial isn’t expected until the 2018/19 season.

During winter 2017, two new trials were planted on grower properties in the Riverina region, to evaluate the performance of trees grown as central leader trees for suitability in high-density plantings. There are also additional trials to be planted at the Almond Centre for Excellence.

Advanced processing of almonds (AL12003)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: University of South Australia

What’s it all about? Beginning in 2013, this project supports:

  • Research into effective aeration and dehydration of bulk almonds in silos, bunkers and sheds, which is being undertaken by a PhD student
  • Research into the effective hulling of almonds in-field and during processing, as well as the improved cracking of almonds, being conducted by a post-doc Research Fellow
  • 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 – with this work involving final-year mechanical engineering and electrical engineering students.

What’s the latest update? Bulk almond dehydration tests continue to be undertaken at four sites with three different almond dehydration set-ups, involving bunker dehydration of almonds; shed-with-aerated-floor dehydration; and dehydration using a modified shipping container. The dehydration systems allow fruit to be dried from any moisture content without creating cavities or brown centres; allow rain-affected fruit to be dried to reduce the incidence of mould; and can also humidify over-dried fruit to increase moisture content and processability.

The researchers report that each site has shown the value of having a dehydration monitoring system that gives real-time moisture status of fruit in the dehydrator, whatever the set-up. Work continues to evaluate a range of monitoring options – including commercial systems used in the grain industry – that could be suitable for monitoring and controlling almond dehydration, and be used as imminent waste fire warning systems as well. It is expected demonstrations for processors related to fire warning systems will take place during the 2018 harvest.

The team has also developed a working system for an on-farm almond hulling machine, with a machine to separate loose hulls and waste subsequently developed. The on-farm huller and sheller is being evaluated on farms during the 2017/18 season, with laboratory tests so far showing it to work for all conditions and varieties of almonds, provided the hull has split.

Australian almond industry innovation and adoption program (AL16001)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: Almond Board of Australia

What’s it all about? Contracted in early 2017, this project is helping to deliver technical advice to growers, facilitate the adoption of R&D, and identify and develop initiatives to address capacity-building requirements of the industry.

What’s the latest update? The project continues to support the roles and activities of Almond Board of Australia industry development manager Andrew Downs (adowns@australianalmonds.com.au) and industry development officers Brett Rosenzweig (brosenzweig@australianalmonds.com.au) and Josh Fielke (jfielke@australianalmonds.com.au).

At a broad level, project work has and will continue to include:

  • Industry fields days, workshops and training initiatives, which are advertised in industry channels
  • Input into the industry communications program, described below
  • Production of fact sheets to take knowledge from projects to growers
  • Face-to-face and other direct engagements with industry participants
  • Establishment and management of demonstration plantings at the Almond Centre for Excellence, in conjunction with other projects, to promote best practise
  • Support for and participation in other industry R&D projects as required
  • Engagement across a range of R&D and industry committees.
Australian almond variety evaluation and commercialisation program (AL12015) and Development of high health status mother planting for new Australian almond varieties (AL16004)

Status: Ongoing projects

Key research providers: The University of Adelaide (AL12015) and Almond Board of Australia (AL16004)

What are they all about? Together, these projects are designed to deliver new almond varieties to the Australian almond industry.

Project AL12015, running since 2013, is responsible for thoroughly evaluating new varieties that have been developed with improved production characteristics – being high-yielding, with self-fertility, improved disease tolerance, closed shells and desirable visual and eating qualities.

Project AL16004, established during 2017, is then tasked with helping provide the earliest possible access to newly commercialised varieties from project. Specifically, it is developing mother plantings of virus-tested and true-to-type new trees, which will enable high-health-status budwood material to be provided to nurseries for grafting. This provision of clonal material that is as close as possible to the original generation from the industry’s breeding program will ensure trees of reliable performance are available as the foundation of new orchard plantings.

What’s the latest update? With no official project updates due to Hort Innovation in the period since the last Hortlink, look for the latest info in the next edition.

Management of Carpophilus beetle in almonds (AL15004)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: The Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) 

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 is developing a cost-effective management system to control the pest, without increasing secondary pest issues.

Its work includes investigating the potential of the Carpophilus Attract & Kill system for use in almonds (currently used in stone-fruit orchards), and developing an understanding of the biology, ecology and distribution of Carpophilus species in almonds.

What’s the latest update? No new project milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (2017, edition 3). At the time of last reporting, it was noted that among the research for the 2016/17 season, the researchers had been looking at…

  • Species abundance. Carpophilus near dimidiatus is known to be the main Carpophilus species causing damage in almond orchards. Upon inspection of more than 2800 trap samples, the species was found to be less abundant in the early part of the season, but became the most abundant species just prior to hull split. Peak populations in mummies were also found in January, just before hull splitting. The researchers noted that Carpophilus infestation of almonds generally occurs during and after hull split.
  • Overwintering behaviour of Carpophilus. This work demonstrated the importance of mummies in survival over winter, and also in population build-up over spring and in early summer. The researchers noted that the extraction of high numbers of larvae and adults from mummies makes orchard hygiene of particular importance. An initial observation was that if possible, sweeping the orchard floor immediately after the placement of Attract & Kill traps in October and November may provide benefit by not only reducing the population through nut removal, but also by creating a disturbance that forces many beetles out of mummies to find better hiding spots (like the traps).

At the time of last reporting, the project team had also been developing a morphological key for the identification of the three main Carpophilus species – Carpophilus near dimidiatus, Carpophilus hemipterus and Carpophilus davidsoni – as well as Carpophilus larvae.

ACT NOW
  

As per the last edition of Hortlink, take note of the mummy nut advice above, and download the project-produced fact sheet Managing Carpophilus Beetle in Almonds for current monitoring and Attract & Kill guidelines. Key points of the resource are that…

  • Almonds are most vulnerable to attack from Carpophilus beetle during hull split
  • Pheromone and co-attractant are much less effective when used separately rather than in combination
  • High priority blocks to monitor are likely to include those that experience excessive moisture retention and humidity
  • It’s suggested that growers start with at least one trap per orchard block (approximately 20 ha)
  • Carpophilus starts to become active and able to fly to traps as temperatures increase in late winter/early spring.
Better tree performance and water use efficiency through root system resilience (AL13009)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: CSIRO

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 aims to support more informed rootstock choice, more efficient irrigation strategies and more efficient use of nutrition.

What’s the latest update? While no official project update was due to Hort Innovation in the period since the last Hortlink (2017, edition 3), at the time of last reporting…

  • The project had screened 17 rootstocks for resilience to soil-water deficit and high soil conductivity. With the results expected to be made available to industry in the near future, the project was moving to place emphasis on glasshouse and young-tree studies of root function.
  • Field experiments continued to look at root function under different irrigation and nutrition regimens, with the researchers studying root phenology, growth and turnover using regular photographic imaging.
  • Field experiments had also been using sap-flow sensors on some of the trees, to monitor whole-season tree water use. In combination with tree canopy and yield data, this was to allow whole-tree water-use efficiency to be determined and linked with irrigation and nutrient treatments.
Managing almond production in a variable and changing climate (AL14006)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: South Australian Research and Development Institute

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? Broadly, the project continues to investigate management options for key climate risks, and continues to develop tools for almond businesses to make decisions around these management options.

As reported in the last Hortlink (2017, edition 3), among its work…

  • The project continues to monitor the relationship between ‘meso-climates’, almond phenology, kernel yield and kernel quality across four orchards. Looking at the meso-climates within the orchards (that is, the climates unique to and within the orchards), the researchers reported that findings from the 2017 harvest were similar to those from 2015, rather than 2016. In 2017, like in 2015, the lowest elevation ‘meso-sites’ within orchards generally had cooler temperatures and higher yields. The researchers noted there were insufficient years of data to determine if this was due to weather/climate, orchard management, or other factors, such as a low-level of biennial bearing.
  • The project continues to look at using temperature to determine the time from full flowering to commencement of hull split. A model developed in California for this predicted hull split earlier than it did occur, and further refinement to suit Australian conditions is needed.
  • The project is investigating passive heating of almonds – using passive solar heating in pot-based experiments to provide further info on the relationship between temperature, phenology and yield.
Australian almond industry conferences and field days 2017-2021 (AL16700)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: Almond Board of Australia

What’s it all about? This project supports industry events to help almond growers and supply chain participants improve knowledge, adopt new practices and ultimately enhance their businesses. These events include:

  • The biennial Australian Almond Conference – a three-day event with participants from across the supply chain, along with researchers, international delegates and service providers.
  • The annual Australian Almond R&D Forum & Field Day for growers, providing information on past and current levy-funded research.

ACT NOW
   

The 2017 R&D Forum & Field Day was held across October 24 and 25 in Loxton, South Australia. If you missed the event or want to revisit what was presented, you can access forum videos, photos and presentations here. 

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

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: Almond Board of Australia

What’s it all about?  This project collects industry statistics and makes 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.

What’s the latest update? Specific project activities include…

  • Production of the annual statistics report, Almond Insights, incorporating the project’s annual planting surveys. The 2016/17 Almond Insights report remains available here. As reported in the last edition of Hortlink, the report was completed in June 2017. Key statistics included:
    • 2016 crop production was 82,333 tonnes based on kernel weight
    • 4,904 hectares were planted in 2016, an increase of 15.8 per cent
    • Current orchard area is 35,886 hectares, with over 10 million trees
    • Almond export value for 2016 marketing year was $434 million
  • Production of annual crop forecasts, with the next forecast expected to be released to industry in early 2018. The 2017 forecast cane in at 82,000 tonnes in June 2017, as detailed here
  • Production of monthly export position reports, with the latest export reports available on the industry website here
  • Ongoing collection of domestic and international almond statistics, disseminated through the In A Nutshell industry newsletter.
Australian almond industry communications program (AL16000)

 Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: Almond Board of Australia

What’s it all about? This program 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 are produced and maintained by the program include the In A Nutshell quarterly industry newsletter (click here for the latest editions), the industry website (www.australianalmonds.com.au) and its grower/levy payers’ portal (www.growing.australianalmonds.com.au). The project is also responsible for producing media releases promoting key research findings and events, and utilises social media (Facebook and Twitter), video and face-to-face communications.

ACT NOW  

In addition to the above, check out these resources produced by the project…

Almond minor use permit program (AL16002)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: Hort Innovation

What’s it all about? Through this project, levy funds and Australian Government contributions are used to renew and apply for new minor use permits for the almond industry. These submissions are prepared and submitted to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

What’s the latest update? All current minor use permits for the industry are searchable at portal.apvma.gov.au/permits [https://portal.apvma.gov.au/permits]. Permit updates are also circulated in Hort Innovation’s Growing Innovation e-newsletter, which levy-paying members receive monthly. Not a member? Sign up to our membership program for free here.

Other R&D projects of note…
  • Horticulture trade intelligence reporting 2017-2019 (MT16011), which is responsible for providing easy-to-read and easy-to-act-upon trade performance information to Australia’s horticulture industry. Quarterly almond reports are made available for download here, in the resources section of Hort Innovation’s Almond Fund page.
  • Enhanced National Bee Pest Surveillance Program (MT16005), which is delivering a nationally coordinated bee-pest surveillance program to help safeguard honey-bee and pollinator-dependent industries in Australia. It builds upon the previous National Bee Pest Surveillance Program (MT12011), and includes upgrading sentinel hive arrays, strengthening relationships with surveillance operators, the introduction of new elements such as Asian hornet screening and more. The surveillance is designed to enable the early detection of high-priority pest incursions that can impact on honey bees, providing the best opportunity for successful pest eradication. The almond industry is one of several contributors to the project’s work.
  • Almond study tour (AL16701), which supports industry relationship building, knowledge sourcing and collaboration with international almond industries by funding study tours for key industry representatives. The 2017/18 tour program involves visits to California, Spain, Belgium and Germany, with learning to be shared in industry channels.
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