It is important to check with your handler for advice on varieties to plant from a marketing standpoint.  Individual handlers may classify market varieties differently and there may be niches for certain varieties and uses. Examples include varieties for different types of inshell end usage, and varieties with sufficient volume and attributes that may fit into specialty niches, such as the recently-released Marcona-type Sweetheart variety.

Ned Ryan cautions growers to approach specialty niche markets with prudence. This is a “balancing act,” he says. The handler needs to have a sufficient supply to provide yearlong contracts, but there is the risk the special use could diminish or the market could get oversold.  Diversification by including plantings with standards like Nonpareil is important. “The world almond market is so diverse in finished products that there is room for many varietal characteristics, Ryan says. “However, price discounts to make some varieties saleable will reduce the value per acre back to the grower.” 

Roger Duncan advises growers to look at more than just yield and think about return per acre. In his presentation, he illustrated this point by comparing Butte/Padre with Nonpareil:  Statewide average yields of Butte/Padre were higher than Nonpareil from 2000 to 2007, but because it received a higher price, Nonpareil returned more per acre.

Bruce Lampinen added information on evaluating yields in his presentation. “Be sure you understand the background and context of the data,” he warns. “Be skeptical and ask a lot of questions.” For example, in the previous series of the RVT (1993–2006) yield data for some varieties at a San Joaquin County plot were impacted by a sand streak through the orchard.

Another factor to consider is the proximal placement of a shorter variety with a taller variety. Because of shading over the course of a day caused by the taller variety, the productivity of the shorter variety may be reduced while the yield of the taller variety, receiving more sun, is increased. This is why yields should be evaluated as the average of the variety in question as well as the adjacent variety(ies).  A Kern County variety trial begun in 2004 and currently under way was planted in a replicated fashion to overcome these factors that could provide misleading data.

A big advantage of the RVT is that tested varieties are compared across different locations in different growing areas with standard varieties. The relative yield ranking provides insights: Is a test variety consistently top-tier or lower-tier in yield? Is yield for a variety in one location/one year uncharacteristically low and could this be a function of a particular disease outbreak? Does small tree size and shading from neighbors in particular plots impact yield and can this be compensated by a different planting pattern? To gain insights into the data and its assessment, contact Joe Connell (UCCE, Butte County, jhconnell@ucdavis.edu), Bruce Lampinen (UC Extension specialist, UC Davis, bdlampinen@ucdavis.edu), Roger Duncan (UCCE, Stanislaus County, raduncan@ucdavis.edu ), or your local farm advisor.

To access production data and reports from the Regional VarietyTrials, charts showing production from the top almond varieties and their acreage in 2009, and how production by variety has changed over the past 10 years, go to AlmondBoard.com/farmpress20.  

The next article in this series will look further into production characteristics, which present an even greater challenge than decisions based on marketing considerations.