This article is the first in a series on choosing almond varieties.

Selecting varieties is a complicated task — there is no perfect choice, yet the decision is one that growers must live with for a long time. 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 farm advisor, Stanislaus County). This series will look at the “checklist” of issues to consider when choosing varieties to plant using information presented by this panel.

Much of the field performance information presented by the panel comes from the UC farm advisors who were involved in the almond Regional Variety Trials (RVT). This information was summarized by the panel members and included reports from these trials, which have been supported by the Almond Board dating back to the late 1970s.

The checklist items included in this series are:

  • Marketing considerations and yield (and therefore, income value to the grower)
  • Challenges of evaluating field performance, bloom and pollen incompatibility groups
  • Harvest timing
  • Insect and disease susceptibility
  • Kernel quality
  • Rootstock compatibility
  • “Fit” into the farming operation.

In this first article, we’ll take a look at marketing considerations, yield and income potential to the grower.

As noted by panelist Roger Duncan, it is important to choose a main variety. Currently, this is typically either Nonpareil or Butte (a Mission-type almond), which are planted with pollinizer varieties chosen to complement these two main varieties.

According to panelist Ned Ryan, demand for Nonpareil continues, as it meets all desirable attributes and has the widest range of uses for the general market. Other general classifications include the California type, which are blanchable and used primarily in manufactured products, and the Mission type almonds, which are small, wide and often plump, with wrinkled skins amenable to roasting and salt and flavor adherence. Current market classifications can be found at AlmondBoard.com/Handlers > marketing tips/resources > marketing classifications.