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Selecting Varieties Is a Complicated Task for Almond Growers

Selecting varieties is a complicated task — there is no perfect choice, yet the decision is one that growers must live with for a long time. At the 2009 Almond Industry Conference, a panel of experts gave growers assistance in this choice by reviewing variety development, evaluation and selection, balancing both field and market considerations.

Selecting AlmondsAt an Almond Board variety workshop, the market characteristics of almond varieties and selections under development are evaluated and scored by ABC committee members involved in production research, along with the ABC Almond Quality and Evaluation Task Force, made up of almond marketing experts — breeders, nurserymen and UC personnel.

Much of the field performance information presented by the panel comes from the UC farm advisors who were involved in the almond Regional Variety Trials (RVT). This information was summarized by the panel members and included reports from these trials, which have been supported by the Almond Board dating back to the 1970s.

At the top of the checklist for choosing varieties, according to the panelists, are marketing considerations, yield and income potential to the grower.

As noted by panelist Roger Duncan, UC farm advisor, Stanislaus County, it is important to choose a main variety. Currently, this is either Nonpareil or Butte, which are planted with pollinizer varieties.

According to panelist and almond industry consultant Ned Ryan, demand for Nonpareil continues, as it has many desirable attributes. Other general classifications include the California type and the Mission type.

It is important to check with your handler for advice on varieties to plant from a marketing standpoint. Individual handlers may classify market varieties differently, and there may be niches for certain varieties and uses. Ryan cautions growers to approach specialty niche markets with prudence. “The world almond market is so diverse in finished products that there is room for many varietal characteristics,” Ryan says. “However, price discounts to make some varieties saleable will reduce the value per acre back to the grower.”

Farm advisor Duncan advises growers to look at more than just yield and think about return per acre. In his presentation, he compared Butte/Padre with Nonpareil: Statewide average yields of Butte/Padre were higher than Nonpareil from 2000 to 2007, but because it received a higher price, Nonpareil returned more per acre.

UC pomology Extension specialist Bruce Lampinen added information on evaluating yields in his presentation. “Be sure you understand the background and context of the data,” he warns. “Be skeptical and ask a lot of questions.” Yields should be evaluated as the average of the variety in question as well as the adjacent variety(ies).

This article, by the Almond Board of California’s Bob Curtis, is a summary of the first in a series of articles on choosing almond varieties published in Western Farm Press. The complete article is in the Aug. 20 issue, page 17, and online (dated Aug. 5). Variety performance reports from the RVT trials and other information are at AlmondBoard.com

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