Gurreet Brar has seen the effects of intensive agriculture in his homeland of Punjab, India. He has seen how intensive agriculture can benefit the lives of people by producing more food.

While improved agricultural practices eventually made India self-sufficient in the production of food grains within a generation, what Brar learned through his experiences in India and his agricultural studies abroad and in the United States promise to serve nut growers in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley’s growing region.

Earlier this year, Brar, 34, became the new tree nut farm advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) in Madera and Fresno counties. He will work with almond, pistachio and walnut growers in the two-county area on a host of issues facing Central Valley tree nut growers.

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Some of those issues will include collaborating on nitrogen management studies, establishing a regional almond variety trial, projects involving pistachios, a grower survey of problems related to walnuts, pistachios and almonds, and some tree nut short courses.

Other research goals that should benefit local growers include planned research on water stress and tree physiology, training and pruning young almond trees, development of innovative nursery production practices to achieve better tree health, and the management of root diseases in trees.

His focus with the UCCE will be to instruct commercial growers about almonds, pistachios and walnuts in Fresno and Madera counties, with a goal of financial and environmental sustainability. His research program will focus on production issues facing nut growers.

Almonds continue to be the most valuable cash crop in Madera County and the No. 2 commodity produced in Fresno County. Almonds are grown on nearly 246,000 acres in the two counties, with a combined gross value last year of more than $1.33 billion. The growing popularity of pistachios promises to make that nut crop increasingly valuable in the next few years as new tree plantings in recent years begin to produce a crop.