Two years of cumulative data gathered from grower self-assessments through participation in the California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP) is giving teeth to what we already know about almond growers’ commitment to sustainable irrigation management.

Many of the technologies and strategies used in sustainable practices have evolved from 30-plus years of grower-funded irrigation research by the University of California through the Almond Board of California. They include the use of highly efficient irrigation systems and the installation and maintenance of irrigation system infrastructure to optimize the performance and efficiency of those systems.

Data from the self-assessments also highlights areas of opportunity in which growers can further increase the economic and environmental sustainability of their irrigation management and performance. In doing so, they not only stake a greater claim on the sustainability of their practices, but can also save money and enhance production through the more efficient use of water and other resources.

Here is a sample of what we have learned so far related to sustainable irrigation management taking place in today’s almond orchards based on data submitted by 198 growers representing 36,519 acres:

  • More than 90 percent of California almond acreage represented in the program is irrigated by highly efficient micro-irrigation systems, such as micro-sprinklers or drip.
  • Self-assessment modules show that the vast majority of growers with irrigation pumps take steps to maintain and test their systems for optimum performance, including pump efficiency tests, flush and filter checks, and the use of flow meters and pressure gauges.
  • For micro-irrigated orchards, system performance is additionally enhanced as 65 percent have pressure-compensating emitters, 90 percent are inspected weekly for leaks and clogs, and 87 percent have lines flushed at the start and middle of the season.
  • Many growers are also using strategies and advanced technology to help them schedule irrigations and fine-tune decisions on the amount and timing of applied water. More than half of growers use soil moisture readings through advanced technology such as neutron probes and tensiometers to help with timing, while 38 percent also incorporated advanced technology to measure plant stress for timing decisions.