When California publishes its crop report in November, there will be a significant change in the ranking order of the state’s top agricultural commodities, the University of California, Davis, predicts.
In 2011, for the first time ever, the value of the California almond crop surpassed the state’s iconic grape industry to move into second place, behind dairy, the university says.
California almonds are on a roll. In the last 20 years, scientific discovery and grower ingenuity have nearly doubled almond per-acre productivity. A good yield in the 1980s was 1,400 pounds per acre. The average yield for 2011 was 2,670 pounds of shelled almonds per acre, UC Davis says.
Forty years ago, California farmers produced less than 100 million pounds of almonds on about 200,000 acres of almond orchards. Mechanization, improved irrigation efficiency, advances in insect and disease management, pruning research and fertilization studies have fueled explosive growth in the industry.
Farmers in the Central Valley now tend 760,000 acres of almond trees, producing about 2 billion pounds of shelled nuts a year. The crop, which represents 100 percent of U.S. almond production and 75 to 80 percent of world production, was valued in 2011 at $3.87 billion, surpassing table, wine and raisin grapes, which were valued at $3.86 billion.
“Even with this record production, we have more demand than we have supply,” says Bob Curtis of the Almond Board. “The driver behind that is nutrition studies that show almonds are a healthy food and snack.”