Growing Organic Almonds Takes Extra Care

The interest in organic almonds from California has tracked the nationwide trend toward increased demand for organic products according to a report in Western Farm Press.

As the uses for almond-based products, from the almonds themselves to milk, paste and flour, has increased so has the demand for the organic tree-fruit.

According to marketing experts, the number of organic food products that include almonds has increased from 5% in 2011 to 13% in 2015. Organic products are the fastest growing consumer trend in the marketplace as new products are developed and retailers seek to provide organic products for their private labels.

And almond farmers are paying attention. A recent presentation on growing organic almonds at the 2015 Almond Conference attracted a packed house. During the panel, some processors said that growers can expects to sell their organic products for double what they get for conventionally grown produce.

Of course, as any organic farmer knows, the costs associated with organic growing can exceed those for convention farming. This includes the costs for weed management, fertilization, and pest management.

Organic growers need to be ready for the challenges they will face and must be much more aware of the varieties they grow and the rootstock they choose.

Growing Organic Almonds 2

According to the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management system, weed control is just one example of the challenges facing organic almond growers. Since general use pesticides cannot be used on organic farms, special consideration needs to given to eliminating any weed seeds before the trees are even planted. This can be done with deep cultivation or with solarization: spreading black or clear plastic over an entire planting area for several months.

Both techniques will help to prevent germination of weeds, yet there are other factors which farmers need to consider. For example, spacing between the trees and proper irrigation, must be different on organic farms, since in-season weed management usually involves between-row cultivation with a tractor, hand weeding, or flaming.

While there are several organically approved herbicides, most do not control all weeds. Organic farmers, unlike their conventional counterparts, need to take extra measures to avoid weed competition with growing almond trees.

Some experts suggest planting a cover crop, although they note, planting a clover, which is left in place during the growing season can lead to other problems like gophers, who love to make their homes under the cover crop and then attack almond tree roots when they want a meal.

All these extra steps increase costs for organic almond farmers and yet, clearly demand has lead to premium pricing which can make the effort worthwhile.

The key, according to experts such as Joanna Clifton of Innova Market Insights, is transparency. Consumers need to have confidence that when the label says organic, the products meet the standards established for organic products.

At American Export House we stand behind our organic farmers because we know their methods meet state organic regulations and you can be sure that when you order our organic almonds they are organic. For your next order contact American Export House.

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