Based on research done by the Almond Board, current carbon sequestration/emission-reduction possibilities for almonds include incorporating chipped prunings to increase and sequester soil carbon; changes in nitrogen management to reduce N2O emissions, such as avoiding water-saturated soils, applying smaller and more frequent rates of N through fertigation and choices of nitrogen; irrigation; and other factors.

Initially, the ag sector had expected to earn money for offset credits under AB 32. The system has since become extremely complicated and expensive both in terms of the criteria for being considered an offset credit and the verification procedures. However, beginning in 2015, additional sectors will fall under cap-and-trade, which will likely increase the demand for offset credits and their value.

 

 

There is also a voluntary carbon market that may be easier for growers to navigate. The many requirements are less stringent than offset credits under ARB’s regulations. The value of the credit is likely to be less, but so is the cost to show the greenhouse gas reduction is real.

The California rice industry has stepped up to be the first to try to navigate this maze. A voluntary “rice protocol” with a focus on methane emission reductions has been drafted and was opened for public comment in mid-March. ARB hopes to complete the process of approving the protocol by this fall to allow rice growers to sign up in early 2015.

Almond Emissions/Sequestration

A meeting hosted by the Almond Board’s Environmental Committee last October highlighted some of the key research in the area of greenhouse gas emissions and sequestration in almonds, as well as opportunities and issues related to agricultural carbon offsets. The research builds on more than 40 years of Almond Board–funded research, and is beginning to allow us to model which practices reduce GHG or increase emissions through all stages of almond propagation, production, harvesting, hulling and shelling.

 

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Meeting attendees from outside agencies, including CDFA and the Environmental Defense Fund, expressed astonishment at the amount of data the Almond Board had accrued that was available to populate the latest research. Among the current projects:

Almond tree growth modeling. A project by Extension pomology specialist Dr. Ted DeJong at UC Davis uses almond tree growth modeling to gather better data on carbon allocation in trees. Dovetailing on previous spur-growth research to build a 3-D “virtual tree,” DeJong can then simulate functions and biomass growth of almond trees. This will provide data for things like estimating the total biomass being removed in an orchard that could be available for bioenergy, or for determining the addition of soil carbon from chipping.