Once planting is completed this (Australian) winter, there will be 7,105 research trees and 12.3 hectares of trial sites across the three Australian states.
The Plant & Food Research Australia project, funded by Hort Innovation — which works to improve productivity, farm gate profitability and global competitiveness of Australian horticultural industries — aims to double almond yield without increasing costs.
Different cultivars the key
This is done by optimising almond tree architecture and understanding how different cultivars respond when planted at a high density.
“Our approach is to work with the natural growth habit or tree architecture of specific cultivars and develop minimal ‘low input’ pruning methods to produce trees suitable for commercial high-density planting,” said Dr Grant Thorp, scientist at Plant & Food Research Australia.
“We want to develop management strategies that are cost-effective, simple to implement and preferably ‘one-off’ at the time of orchard establishment instead of an annual requirement.”
Additional benefits will include reduced time for new almond orchards to produce their first commercial crop, the development of tree shapes suitable for ‘shake and catch’ harvesting, as well as the development of smaller trees for more efficient use of water and easier pest and disease management.
As the research team has established similar trials in California, USA — funded by the Almond Board of California — the almond projects are now relevant to the two largest almond producers in the world. California and Australia represent 88% of the global supply of the high-value nut crop.
Thanks to the geographical advantage of the difference in the times of the seasons, the scientists have two periods in a year to conduct their research, over two continents.
Plant & Food Research is a New Zealand-based science firm providing research and development that adds value to marine and plant-based food industries.