Home & Garden: Almonds vs. peaches
Free Press Gardening Columnist
By now, everyone should have heard it takes a gallon of water to produce one lonely almond. How does this compare to the water consumption of other crops? Is this excessive? To simplify this discussion I want to compare this with the water requirements of the peach because the peach and almond are very closely related and therefore one should expect the peach would require a similar amount of water.
The similarities between the almond and peach are striking. Almond and peach trees usually take three to four years before they begin bearing an economic crop and their growth habit and blossoms are similar in structure. The fruits however are dissimilar. The almond fruit has a thick, leathery gray-green outer cover and a hard corrugated shell covering the seed. The peach also has a hard, corrugated shell surrounding the seed, but the outer cover on the peach is soft and juicy containing about 87-percent water.
The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reports the 2014 yield of almonds in California was 2,270 pounds of per acre. With an average of 400 almonds per pound, at one gallon of water per almond, the California grower needed to apply 908,000 gallons of water for every acre of almond trees. The California Almond Board however reports water conservation methods have reduced the amount of water required to grow almonds to the point where California almond growers only use 722,562 gallons of water per acre.
So how does this compare with fruit-bearing peach trees? Each acre of peaches requires approximately 980,000 gallons of water per acre per year, which is more than almonds require. This is also the amount of water required to irrigate an acre of alfalfa in Fruita and other parts of the Grand Valley. Some Grand Valley growers are known to use even more water.
In agriculture we don’t typically talk about gallons of water per acre, but we use acre-feet to describe the amount of water used. An acre foot is the amount of water required to cover an acre of ground one foot deep. One acre foot equals 326,700 gallons.
I’ve converted everything to gallons in this discussion to demonstrate the amount of water required to produce almonds is not excessive. It is not the gallons per almond but the number of acres planted to almonds that concerns some individuals. California almond growers have 91 thousand acres of almond trees and produce 80 percent of the world’s almonds. Like farmers everywhere, California almond growers are going to grow the crop that provides the greatest profit, hence the reason for growing almonds in the first place.
Free Press columnist Dr. Curtis E. Swift is a retired horticulture agent with the Colorado State University Extension. Reach him at Curtis.Swift@alumni.colostate.edu, 970-778-7866 or check out his blog at http://SwiftsGardeningBlog.blogspot.com. He owns Swift Horticultural Consulting and High Altitude Lavender.
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