Posts Tagged: Almond Board of California
It's the Big 4-0 for the Almond Board of California's annual almond industry conference this week.
Some 1000 convention-goers are gathering in the Sacramento Convention Center. The 40th annual conference opened Tuesday, Dec. 11 and runs through Thursday, Dec. 13.
A contingent from the Department of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, is there--including some from chemical ecologist Walter Leal's lab and some from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Many came to hear U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
After all, almonds are California's biggest export. With some 750,000 acres of almonds in production in the state, the National Agricultural Statistics Service is forecasting a record-breaking 2.10 billion meat pounds this year, valued at approximately $3 billion. Eighty-percent of the global supply of almonds is grown in California, and about 70 percent of California’s crop is marketed overseas.
Over at the Laidlaw facility, you can't help but notice the sign that graces the entrance. The work of self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis, it shows a skep, honey bees, DNA strands, and almond blossoms.
Then if you walk a few steps east of the facility to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, you'll run into the gigantic worker bee sculpture, also the work of Donna Billick. It's a six-foot-long morphologically correct worker bee, right down to the wax glands.
If it appears to be on a pedestal, that's the way it should be. Honey bees, those tiny agricultural workers, pollinate one-third of the food we eat.
As for the almonds, the pollination season begins around Valentine's Day. The orchards will be buzzing. It takes two hives per acre to pollinate California's almond crop.
Sign at the entrance to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis depicts honey bees, a skep, DNA and almond blossoms. It is the work of Donna Billick of Davis (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Fog shrouds the bee sculpture in the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. It is the work of Donna Billick of Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bee working an almond blossom. She's packing her pollen load. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Valentine's Day traditionally marks the beginning of almond pollination season, but it's an early spring. The almonds are blooming and the bees are buzzing.
So, first the tweets, then the buzzes.
CNN Money, New York, came out Feb. 7 with a news story headlined "Honeybee Die-Off Shouldn't Sting." The Almond Board linked to it in its tweet.
The piece, written by Steve Hargreaves, explored the "good news and bad news on the honeybee beat."
Hargreaves said that colony collapse disorder (CCD) continues to claim about 30 percent of the nation's bees every winter. That's the bad news. The good news, he said, is that "beekeepers have been able to rejuvenate their hives each year so that by summer, the population is back to previous levels."
And "another bit of good news," Hargreaves pointed out, is that although agricultural yields are rising and "rejuvenating beehives is costly," the higher costs aren't being transferred in the supermarket.
Hargreaves quoted UC Davis agricultural economist Daniel Sumner as saying "It shouldn't be a significant item on the radar screen of consumers. It's not that big of a deal."
So, there you have it. Bees are in trouble. Almond production is up (about 750,000 acres in California and each acre requires two hives for pollination). And, demand for almonds is up. California now produces 80 percent of the world's almonds.
Meanwhile, honey bee guru and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, is repeatedly asked "How are the bees doing?" He writes a bi-monthly from the UC Apiaries newsletter and the periodic Bee Briefs, both posted on the Department of Entomology website.
Mussen attributes CCD (a mysterious malady characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive) to a combination of factors, including parasites, pesticides, pests, diseases, malnutrition and stress.
It continues to amaze us, however, what some folks think is causing CCD. They're looking for a silver bullet. There is none.
The arguments can get ugly. As debates continue to rage in the CNN Money commentary section, one reader, obviously exasperated, posted "...the writers in this place don't know anything about the realms of science, economics or ecology. And 90 percent of the posters aren't very bright, either."
Meanwhile, the bees are busy pollinating almonds.
Honey bee pollinating almonds in Vacaville. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee cleaning her tongue as she heads for the next blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Peek-a-bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Up, up and away. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Growing almonds isn't all it's cracked up to be.
The next time you're enjoying a ice cream bar coated with almonds or a salad with toasted almonds, think not only about the honey bees, but the growers.
The Almond Board of California recently reported that "Despite the higher yields and increased efficiencies California almond growers have gained over the years, the costs associated with growing almonds have risen dramatically while net returns per acre have shrunk."
A study by Cooperative Extension Specialist Karen Klonsky of the UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics showed that the total cost of producing an acre of almond is $3,897.
Yes, one acre.
Klonsky analyzed costs for an assumed 40-acre orchard in the northern San Joaquin Valley with 16-foot-22-foot spacings, 124 trees per acre, microsprinkler irrigation, and a 25-year orchard life.
The cultural costs totaled $1,752 or 45 percent of the total cost of production.
Cultural costs? Think pruning, weed control, pickup and ATV use, pollination, irrigation and fertilization, disease, and pests (insects and gophers).
Pollination--that would be the honey bees--accounted for $280 per acre or 16 percent of the cultural costs. (California has some 750,000 acres of almonds, and each acre requires two hives for pollination.)
Overall, next to cultural costs, the cost of land proved to be the second-highest expense, followed by production costs, cost of trees, and equipment.
"Applying this cost scenario to a price of $1.90 per pound, Klonsky calculated the break-even point would require a 2000 pound-per-acre yield," the board reported in its March newsletter.
And you thought growing almonds was easy?
In the Pink