This article is the third and final in a series on choosing almond varieties.

This third article (see Part 1 and Part 2) continues to look at the “checklist” of issues to consider when choosing almond varieties. At the 2009 Almond Industry Conference, a panel of experts gave growers assistance in this choice by reviewing variety development, evaluation and selection, balancing both field and market considerations. The panel included Tom Gradziel (UC Davis almond breeder), Joe Connell (UC farm advisor, Butte County), Bruce Lampinen (UC Pomology Extension specialist), Ned Ryan (past Almond Board chair and almond industry consultant) and Roger Duncan (UC Davis farm advisor, Stanislaus County).

This last installment looks at disease and insect susceptibility, kernel quality and “fit” for your farming operation and style.

Disease susceptibility

A comprehensive chart summarizing varietal resistance to several diseases and insects is included on page 11 of the UC publication “Integrated Pest Management for Almonds,” Second Edition (UC Agriculture and Natural Resources publication 3308, published in 2002). While this is a good resource, some of the information has been updated since publication as a result of findings from the Regional Variety Trials (RVT) funded by the Almond Board and other sources. For instance, Nonpareil is among the more tolerant varieties to Alternaria, rather than being very susceptible. An updated version of the RVT findings can be found at the link mentioned in the last paragraph.

In addition to these findings, farm advisor Joe Connell provided his own disease summary, noting the RVT plots have been valuable for identifying newer test varieties that are highly susceptible to certain diseases that are “bad standouts” during wet years such as occur during an “El Niño.” These observations are included in Connell’s presentation, which can also be found by following the link at the end of this article.

Among the newer and more popular varieties not listed in the UC IPM publication is Winters, which is very susceptible to anthracnose, Alternaria and scab. Farm advisor Roger Duncan additionally cautioned that a variety such as Winters that is partially self-compatible and has set and performed well in the more rainy north may not be appropriate for southern plantings where Alternaria is a persistent problem. 

Almond breeder Tom Gradziel underscored this by saying location is critical to assessing performance, which should be done under different conditions. A valuable aspect of the RVT plots is they have been planted in three distinct almond-growing regions: north, central and south.