CULTIVATION STRATEGY FOR
Almond tree cultivation.
World production of almonds has grown in recent years, with the United States being the main producer country, followed by Spain and Italy. Within the nut market, almonds lead the ranking both nationally and internationally.
The almond tree is a fruit tree of great importance in terms of extension in our country. Traditionally, almond trees have been cultivated in extreme conditions of climate, soil, orography, etc., making it a marginal crop with low productivity, a marginal crop being one whose cultivation costs are equal to the value of its production. However, the low productivity of these trees was also influenced by the way they were managed: poor application of fertilisers and plant protection products, poor pollination, early varieties that were sensitive to diseases and frost, etc.
As a result, almond growers have had to look for more productive and efficient almond growing systems to ensure farm profitability.
»Almond tree plantation
In almond cultivation there are two planting options, depending on whether it is done from:
- Unprocessed nuts (seeds): Ideally, they should be germinated in a controlled environment.
- Saplings or sprouts: provides better results, although it is the most expensive option.
Furthermore, when planting almond trees, it must be ensured that the area chosen is suitable.
A well-drained, light and fertile soil is the best (almond trees can survive in dry soils, but their productivity is considerably reduced).
The almond tree prefers warm climates with plenty of sunshine. In order to choose the variety of almond we want to plant, it is important to know the climatic characteristics of each area.
-Orientation of the plot and slope
When determining the orientation of the rows of trees it is really interesting to take into account the lighting, the length of the plot, the slope of the land and the wind direction.
-Possibility of irrigation
If a water source is available, it is best to install an irrigation system. Drip irrigationis recommended as it minimises evaporation and run-off losses.
» Care requirements for almond trees
Almond cultivation is predominantly established in Mediterranean coastal areas and is able to adapt to a wide range of soil and climatic conditions. It withstands high temperatures in summer and intense cold in winter. Moreover, the almond tree is able to withstand long periods of drought and survive in very poor soils. However, as mentioned above, all these circumstances will negatively affect their production levels.
-Soil conditioning for almond cultivation
Almond trees are very sensitive to root asphyxia and fungal attack. It is therefore important to remove the remains of previous plantings and to clear the area of shrubs and weeds.
To encourage root development and water filtration, deep ploughing and cross ploughing (soil preparation work) are carried out.
Finally, to ensure that the soil has the necessary nutrients for the almond trees, a bottom dressing such as manure is applied.
-Almond tree irrigation
Although most almond trees are grown in rainfed conditions, it has been found that they are very grateful for irrigation, thus increasing their production significantly.
In Spain, more and more farmers are using deficit irrigation techniques for almond trees. The period of greatest water requirement of this tree is the period between the beginning of the rapid fattening of the kernel and the moment when it reaches its final length.
During the rest of the production period, irrigation will be reduced, but not eliminated.
It is also interesting to note that irrigation a few days before harvesting favours the detachment of the kernel shells.
-Almond tree pruning
o Formative pruning
This is done in order to allow light to reach the entire aerial part of the tree, with the aim of favouring photosynthesis. In addition, it also allows the branches to sustain production later on.
This type of pruning is carried out during the first four years and in winter.
o Production pruning
The purpose of this pruning is to establish productive secondary branches, control the shape and size of the branches, remove suckers and remove dead or damaged branches.
o Renewal or rejuvenation pruning
It is carried out when a reduction in productivity is detected due to the ageing of the branches.
» Fertilisers for almond growing
Generally, a good fertilisation of almond trees should include:
- Macronutrients: calcium, nitrogen, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and sulphur.
- Micronutrients: manganese, boron, zinc, chlorine, copper, iron and molybdenum.
Nitrogenis an essential element for the development of the vegetative system as it is involved in growth and chlorophyll formation. Nitrogen deficiency can cause yellowing of the leaves and stunt the growth of the tree.
Phosphorusis essential for the ripening of flowers and fruits and for root development. Phosphorous deficiency may darken leaves and reduce flowering and fruit formation.
Potassium promotes tree resistance to drought and frost, increasing productivity. If there is a shortage of this element, bud mortality increases and production is reduced as a result.
In terms of micronutrients, calcium and magnesium are essential elements in fruit formation; ironand boron are involved in fruit set and flowering.
When fertilising almond trees, it is important to point out that in order to have a good almond tree fertilisation programme, prior analyses must be carried out to determine the soil deficiencies and the nutritional state of the trees. This will make it possible to see their deficiencies in order to provide the trees with the nutrients they need.
If what we want is an organic almond tree cultivation, the fertilisers we will apply will be composed of organic matter, such as manure, hummus, compost, etc.
» Harvesting almonds
- Manual: sticks and tarpaulins are used to collect the fruit.
- With machinery: such as vibrators with inverted umbrellas or riding harvesters that hug the trees and shake the canopy.