California almond growers added 15,000 acres last year, bringing total acreage to an estimated 810,000 acres — a 2 percent increase from 2008’s 795,000 acres. Harvest averaged 1,930 pounds per acre, a 20 percent drop from 2,400 pounds in 2008. Last year, California produced 1.39 billion pounds of almonds, down 15 percent from 1.63 billion pounds the previous year.

These estimates, released by the California Field Office of the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service in Sacramento April 30, are based on a questionnaire mailed to a 6,000 almond growers early last October. The survey was funded by the Almond Board of California.

The estimates reflect the removal of more than 20,000 acres of trees, mostly older ones, during the 12 months ending in April this year. But, they don’t include a significant number of trees that were pushed out after being harvested last year.

Nonpareil continues to be the most widely-grown variety, with 258,161 acres, which includes 233,941 bearing acres and 24,220 non-bearing acres. Kern County growers led the state in Nonpareil acreage with 52,671 acres. Fresno County was second with a total of 36,412 acres. Close behind was Merced County with 35,368 total acres, followed by Stanislaus County with 34,796 acres.

The next most popular varieties were Carmel, 87,645 acres (3,255 non-bearing acres), followed closely by Butte, 85,834 acres (8,032 non-bearing acres). Rounding out the top five varieties last year were Monterey, 70,041 acres (12,498 non bearing acres) and Padre, 52,675 acres (6,324 non-bearing acres).

These same four counties also accounted for the most acreage of all varieties standing in 2009. Their almond orchards represented 64 percent of California’s total acreage, the same as in 2008.

Last year, growers planted 7,597 acres of Nonpareil. But, that figure is down 19 percent from the 9,318 acres of Nonpareil planted in 2008.

Among the other varieties most planted in 2009 were Monterey, 3,827 acres, which was 25 percent lower than the 5,068 acres planted the previous year; and Butte, 1,271 acres, a 56 percent decrease from the 2,868 acres planted in 2008.

Carmel was planted on 764 acres in 2009, a decline of 28 percent from the 1,060 acres planted in 2008. Meanwhile, plantings of Padre dropped 57 percent from 2,074 acres in 2008 to 887 acres last year.

Countering this trend, 2009 plantings of Wood Colony rose 17 percent from the 2008 figure of 740 acres to 891 acres.

In all, California growers planted 18,264 acres of almonds last year, a 31 percent reduction from the 26,546 acres planted in 2008