This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Almond Board of California’s (ABC’s) Production Research Program. It’s no coincidence that almond yields have more than doubled over the past 40 years, and damage from navel orangeworm has gone from a high of 8.8 percent down to 1 percent or less in the most recent crop.

Here’s how it happened.

In 1972, the Federal Marketing Order for almonds was revised so that the ABC could establish and fund production research projects. By the next year, a cooperative research program was begun between ABC, University of California and USDA. At the time, the focus was on managing NOW, a very serious problem for the industry.

NOW – The First Milestone

Cooperative research with UC and USDA resulted in a “Four Point Program” for addressing navel orangeworm, which is the foundation of practices used today that have brought damage down to a new low, reducing direct crop losses and associated aflatoxin risk.

The four points are:

·      Winter sanitation

·      Dormant sprays

·      In-season sprays

·      Timely harvest

More recently, as a result of 35 years of dedicated research by several experts, a NOW pheromone is commercially available for use in traps and for mating disruption. Now, work is being done to develop the use of almond plant volatiles, or kairomones, to disrupt ovipositioning. Combining the two techniques has the potential to increase trap attractiveness to both males and females, disrupting both mating and egg laying, and possibly leading to an attract-and-kill technique.

Ongoing research has also resulted in the refinement of programs for NOW control using in-season reduced-risk pesticides with minimal impact on beneficials. Newer materials fit in both spring and hullsplit sprays, with added efficacy on peach twig borer in the spring application.

More recent research shows that for winter sanitation, mummy nuts should be removed down to two or fewer per tree, and harvest should take place as soon as possible after nuts are mature to avoid egg laying for a third generation of NOW.

These discoveries came about under ABC-supported research, which has been leveraged by the 2008 – 2012 USDA Area-wide Pest Management Project for NOW, a funding partnership between ABC and USDA Agricultural Research Service.