How is Californian drought affecting almond supply?

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

California provides 83% of the world’s almonds, but drought is affecting supply. FoodNavigator spoke to the Almond Board of California about how the industry is tackling water shortages – and why so much of the world is reliant on Californian almonds.

The Californian drought is one of the most severe on record, leaving many questioning why so many thirsty crops are grown there at all. According to Stacey Humble, the Almond Board’s vice president of global marketing, almonds aren’t the thirstiest of crops grown in the region – although they do need a lot of water.

The crop per tree has been shrinking year-on-year – as has the crop overall, despite expanding acreage. This year, the amount of land planted for almonds in California crossed the 1m-acre mark.

However, the industry has been investing in research and water-saving strategies, most recently with a $2.5m Almond Board investment into independent research to improve sustainable practices, announced at the end of last month.

Humble said that one of the biggest changes resulting from such research, which is now coming to fruition, has been a transition away from flood irrigation to micro-irrigation, which delivers water directly to the root zone exactly when it is needed. Micro-irrigation is done either above ground (as shown in the video), or even more efficiently, below ground.

She also explained that the world’s huge reliance on Californian almonds stems from the area’s Mediterranean climate, as well as almond growers’ investment in efficient production over the past three decades.

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