Hort Innovation continues to invest the almond R&D levy in a number of key projects for the industry, from work into pest management to pollination and productivity. Learn more in the R&D snapshot below.

INDUSTRY UPDATE

The selection process for appointing an independent chair for the almond Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) has recently been completed. Information on the SIAP chair will be made available on Hort Innovation’s Almond grower page shortly. The page will also continue to make available summaries from the SIAP’s meetings.

The Strategic Investment Plan

A Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) is the roadmap that helps ensure levy investment decisions align with individual industry priorities. It is used to guide decision-making in levy spending, and represents a balanced view of stakeholders in the industry.

Hort Innovation is currently consulting with growers and other industry stakeholders to finalise new SIPs for each industry by the end of the calendar year.

To learn more about the SIP process, visit Hort Innovation’s SIP Portal.

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.

R&D SNAPSHOT

NEW, ONGOING AND COMPLETED PROJECTS FOR THE INDUSTRY

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 Australia it has evolved to support:

  • PhD students 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? For aeration and dehydration, one of the students 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 held back in June 2016. A wireless imminent waste stockpile fire warning system was also designed and demonstrated.

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

For almond hulling, ongoing work is 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 5 per cent creation of loose kernels. Once finalised, the process will be presented to industry.


almond-aearation-sensor

Sensing system for the control of almond dehydration/rehydration in aeration sheds


 

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 will:

  • Investigate the potential of the Carpophilus Attract & Kill system for use in almonds (currently used in stone-fruit orchards)
  • Examine the biology and ecology of Carpophilus in almonds
  • Involve laboratory screening of candidate pesticides.

What’s the latest update? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016). At the time of last reporting:

  • Laboratory colonies of three Carpophilus species had been established
  • Data from 2015/16 field trials had been collated, analysed and reported – over 41,000 nuts were collected from three orchard blocks across the Robinvale district in Victoria to do so
  • The findings were being used to guide and refine the project’s 2016/17 work program.

 

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? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016). At the time of last reporting, 12 Prunus rootstocks had been assessed for resilience to soil water deficit and to high soil conductivity, and there was to be assessment of new genotypes begun.

Root function continued to be assessed at the project’s field site through regular photographic imaging (analysis over time is to demonstrate the impact of water and nitrogen regimes on root growth and turnover). Sapflow sensors were also installed in 24 trees at the site. In combination with canopy and yield data, the results will allow whole tree water use efficiency to be determined and linked with irrigation/nutrient treatments and root density/growth.

 

Pollination as a controlling factor in almond yield (AL14004)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Established in 2014, 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? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016). To date the project has established 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
  • Sequential flowering of spurs between years is rare.

 

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? Data collection and analysis continues. Between April and August 2016, the number of spurs, the weight of kernels and the weight per kernel produced by trees in the study were collected.

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

Machine-hulled and shelled kernels from one of the cultivars in the study, Nonpareil, were also 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.

Information from this project has been presented as part of field days and on social media.

 

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? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016). At the time of last reporting:

  • Weather and climate risks, drivers and management options had been identified, along with knowledge gaps
  • Development of a unified model to describe the phenology of almonds in Australia was continuing
  • Field assessments of tree physiology were continuing.

The research has identified that many of today’s risks are likely to change in a future climate. Some of the top-line findings:

  • Mean temperature, daily maximum temperature, daily minimum temperatures, and temperature extremes are projected to increase in all seasons
  • Rainfall is projected to be similar to natural variation in the near term, but likely to decline in longer term (meaning the risks associated with insufficient irrigation water and inadequate winter rain are likely to continue to show the considerable inter-annual and inter-decadal variation in the near term but increase in the longer term)
  • Evapotranspiration is projected to increase due to warming and increasing solar radiation
  • Relative humidity is projected to decline, with high to medium confidence depending on seasonality
  • Wind is projected to continue having considerable natural variation.

 

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? The work originally began with the establishment of trial sites on two separate properties in Lindsay Point, Victoria, in 2014. This work has recently been expanded, with a new trial planted in the Riverina region, two new trials planted in the Riverland region, and a further planting set to take place near Hillston, New South Wales.

The Riverina and Riverland trials will be looking at new growing systems for new varieties. The objective of the work will be to quantify growth responses of new scion varieties to pruning regimes that are better suited to high-density planting systems.

Trial plans have also been agreed, and plant material ordered from nurseries, for new projects to be established in winter 2017. As the project progresses, new trial plots are set to look at optimised trunk girdling, high-density orchards optimised for new varieties and rootstocks, and more.

 

Australian Almond Industry Communications (AL11005)

Status: Completed project, to be followed by a new communications project for the industry

What was it all about? Beginning in 2011, this project has now concluded. Over its life, it focused on providing 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.

  • Communication activities, delivered by the Almond Board of Australia, included:
  • ‘In A Nutshell’, the quarterly industry newsletter
  • Annual Australian Almond Planting Survey
  • Annual Almond Industry Statistics Report, ‘Almond Insights’
  • Collection and collation of quarterly sales and production data
  • Annual update of Australian Almond Information Booklet
  • Regular updating of the industry website (www.australianalmonds.com.au) and its grower/levy payers’ portal (growing.australianalmonds.com.au)
  • Maintenance of the almond industry contacts database.

 

Other R&D projects of note…

» Food Safety in Almonds – Stage 2 (AL11009)

» Australian Almond Industry Conferences 2013 to 2015 (AL12702), extended into 2016

» Australian Almond Industry – Liaison and Extension Project (AL12000), recently completed

» Almond industry statistics and data collection 2017-2019 (AL16003), for which Hort Innovation put out a Request for Proposal in September.

GROWER PROFILE

TROY RICHMAN, ALMAS ALMONDS, VIC

Coming to be involved in the almond industry was a happy twist of fate for Troy Richman, whose original background is in mechanical engineering. Today he loves the diversity of his industry, and relishes the chance to explore new technologies and opportunities through large-scale almond operation Almas Almonds, of which he is general manager.

“I spent the first 15 years of my career being involved in equipment product development for the viticulture and broad-acre industries,” Troy said. “Then I had a chance meeting with an almond industry representative who had an opportunity for me to get involved in large-scale horticultural development. So I moved to Victoria with my family in 1999, and have been directly involved in almonds ever since. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in processing, irrigation, farm management and large-scale project management, so I have a very firm grounding in the industry.”

Troy said that what he loves most about the almond industry is the people. “While large in scale, the almond industry is small in grower numbers. It also has such a diverse range of grower operations, with corporate, managed plantations and owner-operators. This means that as growers we have great collaboration with people from all across the board.”

Helping his business, and the industry, learn and grow is also high on Troy’s list. “At Almas we’re about to build a 10-acre trial site, which is exciting,” he said. “I’ve been to Spain and America over the last few years and a couple of the rootstocks that were being used have now become available commercially in Australia. One of them supports high-density planting and the other supports the replacement of existing rootstock. We’ll be trialling these – in fact in all there’s six different rootstocks we’re putting in and six different almond cultivars, including new-to-the-industry varieties and ones we haven’t grown on our orchard before. We’ll be managing them the same as we do the rest of our commercial crop to see how they grow and yield on our property and in this region.”

Though he doesn’t expect the trial to have an impact on Almas for another five or so years, Troy said the business plans to share the information that comes out of it to assist other growers, too. “We’re always happy to share our results for the betterment of the industry and growers. I believe that as a grower and part of a unified industry we can meet the challenges we face now and into the future if we work together.”

When it comes to new opportunities, Almas is also exploring uses of solar energy. “Almond growing has reasonably high inputs, so anything we can do to have a positive environmental impact that makes commercial sense, we’ll look at,” Troy said. To this end, we’ve built solar drainage systems, with one solar panel per pump – so as long as there’s sun out, water will be getting pumped out of the pits into a surface drainage system so it doesn’t have an impact on our orchard or the environment.”

The company is also looking to make use of its acres of land not suitable for planting almonds, with plans to lease it out for the establishment of a large-scale solar system that will generate energy for the benefit of the whole region. “But there’s a bit of a way to go on that one, as the project is still subject to government grants and approvals,” Troy said.

Troy is a member of the Strategic Investment Advisory Panel for almonds, and said he was looking forward to sinking his teeth into existing and proposed projects for the industry. “There’s some really important work being done in regards to the carob moth and the Carpophilus beetle, which is new to our industry and has certainly been causing us all grief,” he said. Almas has been involved in the trapping of the pest for the research, and Troy said that understanding more about the beetle and developing trapping and management systems was definitely on our radar.

“I’m also keen to see ongoing work into the development of new almond varieties and management systems associated with them. With expansion accelerating in recent years, the increased scale of production is also showing that we as an industry need to improve on post-harvest operations in storage and processing to meet future requirements,” he said. “And while a sensitive topic, irrigation water and ownership will be a challenge in the future.”

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