Research from the University of California, Davis suggests that whole orchard recycling for California almonds, when old orchard trees are ground, chipped and turned back into the soil before new almond trees are planted, is good for the planet and for productivity.

In recent years, drought and high almond prices have encouraged higher rates of orchard turnover. Previously, the trees that were no longer productive were burned, but that is now restricted under air quality regulations.

According to the UC Davis study, whole orchard recycling offers a sustainable alternative which, when compared with burn treatments, can:

  • Sequester 5 tonnes of carbon per hectare
  • Increase water-use efficiency by 20%
  • Increase crop yields by 19%

Dr. Amélie Gaudin, an associate professor of agroecology in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, said, “This seems to be a practice that can mitigate climate change by building the soil’s potential to be a carbon sink, while also building nutrients and water retention. That can be especially important as water becomes more limited.”

The study was funded by a Specialty Crop Block Grant Program of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Almond Board of California.