Oct 20, 2021
Almond orchard recycling and the second life of the trees

As the drought continues to devastate California almond growers, Almond Board of California Chief Science Officer Josette Lewis is looking for a silver lining by studying ways to give almond groves a sustainable second life.

In the most recent episode of Voices of the Valley, the podcast hosted by Dennis Donohue, the Director of Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology, and Candace Wilson, VP of Business Development at GreenVenus, Lewis talked about recycling almond orchard biomass.

“We have initiated a program to look at adding value to almond co-products or biomass that comes out of almond production,” she said. “The kernel that we need is only about a third of the biomass that comes out of an almond orchard every year. We have hulls, which is the fleshy outer coating, kind of like the part of the peach that we eat, and then the shells, and then there is the woody biomass. We’re looking at ways to add value to that, both as a zero-waste strategy and as a way to add value to the industry.”

The full orchard recycling works on a number of levels by giving trees a second life after they have been pulled out of the earth.

“After about 20-25 years, almond trees are no longer as productive. Historically those almond orchards would have been burned … for air quality reasons we can no longer do that,” Lewis said. “In whole orchard recycling, the trees are taken down, they are chipped with some very large equipment and then that massive quantity of almond chips are put low into the soil. It’s not spread on top like compost. As a result of that practice, we can sequester very significant amounts of carbon deep in the soil profile and contribute to mitigating climate change. Not only does it have environmental benefits, it also improves the water holding capacity.”

Voices of the Valley is produced by Western Growers and its Center for Innovation & Technology. This week’s episode can be found here.

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