Almond Orchard of the Future: Shake and Catch System

Patrick Brown, professor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, sees a future that holds a better way of growing almonds, one that cuts down on dust in the air, reduces the risk of navel orangeworm and hull rot, and gives growers many more opportunities to improve soil and tree health.

“We’ve approached this like a business case study,” Brown explained. “You look at challenges, you look at threats, and you look at opportunities. Dust is probably the biggest threat to the industry . . . the issue of dust generated during almond harvest has been on the minds of the almond industry for many years and a long-term solution is clearly required.”

Part of Professor Patrick Brown’s presentation at the recent Almond Conference in Sacramento.

Brown envisions harvesting about three weeks earlier, catching nuts so they do not touch the orchard floor, followed by hulling and drying on the farm.

“The current harvest practices … maximize on-tree drying of the nuts,” Brown said. “That on-tree extended drying, however, introduces greater potential for navel orangeworm, hull rot, and aflatoxin while limiting the options that growers have for managing their orchard floor.”

Professor Patrick Brown, UC Davis.

What’s needed to usher in this change in orchard design? In part, it’s new machinery to catch harvest and to hull and dry the fruit. The first generation of machinery specifically designed for shake and catch almond orchards is already in use in Spain and has been used to a limited extent in California.

Already, hullers and shellers have approached him to talk about a new potential role of this change in harvesting practice in the orchard.

(Read the full article, by Eliot Caroom, at Ceres Imaging.)

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