There have been 100,000 acres of new almond orchards planted in California within the past three years, according to the California field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

These new orchards can easily produce 300 million pounds more annually of almonds when they reach maturity. These orchards will be added to the estimated 580,000 bearing acreage inventory now in the ground that have proven to easily produce more than 1 billion pounds annually.

Experts predict the California almond crop will reach 1.5 billion pounds annually with a few years, 500 million pounds more than was produced in record setting years 2003-2004 when the crops exceeded 1 billion pounds each season. It almost reached that level last year, but poor weather stopped the final total crop size just short of 1 billion pounds.

Kern, Merced, Stanislaus and Fresno are the leading counties. These four counties have about 63 percent of the acreage. Nonpareil continues to be the leading variety, followed by Carmel and Butte. Butte, Monterey and Nonpareil showed significant acreage increases. About a third of the acreage planted over the past three years was Nonpareil.

NASS surveyed 6,000 California almond growers and gleaned pesticide application data compiled by county ag com to come up with the bearing and non-bearing acreage.

In detailed data, NASS estimated 83,000 acres have been planted over the past three years. Using the pesticide use data, NAAS rounded that off to 100,000. There were 34,000 planted in 2005 and almost 33,000 acres were planted the year before. These represent the largest acreages planted in a single year since 1998. More than 30,000 acres were planted annually in a six-year span starting in 1994.

NASS estimates 10,000 acres were removed over the past 12 months, mostly trees planted in the 1970s and 1980s. However, a significant amount of this acreage was harvested in ‘05 before the trees were removed.

Almonds are considered bearing by the fourth leaf, but many of the newer orchards being planted achieve a harvestable crop by the second leaf and reach full production by about the seventh leaf.

NASS extrapolated the 680,000 from the pesticide use reports as well as well as 602,000 identified as planted in the 30 California counties where almonds are grown.


e-mail: hcline@farmpress.com