A step by step guide of almond farming, planting
Today, we learn the topic of Almond farming techniques, ideas, and tips. The commercial cultivation of almonds in India is profitable. Now, let us discuss a step by step guide for growing almonds, almond plant care, and harvesting procedure.
Introduction of almond:
The almond is a medium-sized tree of the rose family. It resembles the peach, plum, and apricot. Just like the peach, the almond contains the edible seed in a hard outer shell. When reaching maturity, Almond hull splits open, the almond nut can be easily separated from the hard shell once it is dried. There are two types of almond available a) Sweet almond b) Bitter almond. Almonds are used for various purposes like in sweets, milk, nuts used in the food and used in producing oils. Almond cultivation in India is restricted to selected hilly areas of are Kashmir region, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Health benefits of almonds:
Almonds are the and most nutritious and healthiest nuts of all, considered a well-balanced cholesterol free food, it also called the king of nuts in India. Some of the health benefits of almonds are given below.
- Almonds may lower ‘bad’ cholesterol.
- Almonds may reduce heart attack risk.
- Almonds provide healthy fats and may aid in weight loss
- Almonds provide good brain function.
- Almonds help build strong teeth and bones.
Local Names of Almond in India:
Badam Pappu (Telugu),
Badam Paruppu (Tamil),
Badam kayu (Malayalam),
Badam (Hindi, Marathi).
Commercial varieties of almonds in India:
Below are some of the commercial varieties of Almond cultivated in India. Non-Pareil, California paper Shell, Merced, IXL, Shalimar, Makhdoom, Waris, Pranyaj, Other high yielding cultivars are Ne Plus Ultra, Primorskij, Peerless, Carmel, Thompson, Price, Butte, Monterey, Ruby, Fritz, Sonora, Padre, and Le Grand.
Climate required for almond plantation:
Almond requires climate having slightly hot summer temperature ranging from 30 C – 35 C and cool winters for plant growth and kernel filling. Unopened blossoms shall withstand cold up to – 2.2 C, but blossoms at petal fall stage are damaged at 0.50 C to – 1.1 C. The blossoms can withstand temperature from – 2.2 C to – 3.3 C for a short time but if low temperature continuous for long hours they get damaged easily.
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Soil and its preparation for almond plantation:
Almonds grow in a wide range of soils and the ideal PH range of soil is 7.0-8.5. Almond cultivation is best suitable for loamy, deep and well-drained soils. Almond trees do not thrive well in heavy or poorly drained soils but can be grown in average soils supplemented with Farm Yard Manure and with regular assured irrigation.
How to plant almonds
The grafted/budded almond plants should be planted in a square system at a distance of either 6 m X 6 m (normal farmers planting system), 4.0 m x 4.0 m (Medium-high density system), and 3.5 m X 3.5 m – 2.5 m (under high-density planting system). Every 3rd row should be pollinizer row. Before planting, pits of 3 ft x 3 ft x 3 ft should dig up a size during the month of September to October. The almond plants should be planted from Feb to March in the center of the pit, provided by the desired bamboo supports to protect the almond trees from winds and to grow straight.
Training and pruning of almond farming:
1) At Almond planting time, head back the tree to 1 meter above the ground level.
2) First dormant pruning:- 3 primary scaffold branches are retained along with few temporary branches below the trunk, removing only those branches which compete strongly with primary scaffolds and the Almond tree is trained to a shape of modified leader system.1-year-old wood is pruned every year in December – January when Almond tree is completely dormant and they produce most of the fruit on short spurs which stay fruitful for about five years.
Therefore, pruning should be done in such a manner that 1/5 the fruiting wood is replaced every year. Prune in such a way that new wood with new spur growth is constantly replacing spur that is no longer fruitful or useful. To meet or achieve this, only prune or remove older tree branches that are 1.2 cm to 3.7 cm in diameter. Thin out very little of the smaller wood, except to remove unwanted suckers or water sprouts. The success of pruning in almond plantation can be judged in part by the length of new shoots over the entire tree every year if other factors are not impacting the growth.
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Intercropping of almonds
During the almond orchard pre-bearing stage, inter-cultivation with several suitable crops are recommended for some extra income through sustainable utilization of interspaces. The best intercrops in almond farming are like saffron, pea, pulses, carrot, seed production of turnip, knoll khol, mustard and bulb production of onion and garlic, and aromatic plants and medicinal plants like lavendine, lavender. Besides getting some extra income, the growing of legumes like pulses and pea will increase the soil fertility, turnips seed production and mustard augmenting to pollination by attracting bees, and growing some medicinal and aromatic trees like garlic, lavender, lavendine, etc are acting as a repellent to ant pests, insects and diseases.
Pollination Management in Almond orchard
In general, Almond trees are not self-pollinating so therefore it is necessary to provide every 3rd row in each farm with pollinizer variety (33 percent pollinizer) so that their bloom should coincide with each other. The varieties which are generally used for commercial almond cultivation as pollinizer like, Jordanalo IXL, Waris, and Ne-Plus-Ultra. In addition, to this, placement of 4 to 6 beehives are found highly beneficial and can increase the fruit set and almond yield by 12 to15 %.
Manure and Fertilizers of almond trees
The almond tree is a heavy feeder. Therefore, it requires and recommended a good amount of manures and fertilizers. It is best to apply well rotten Farm Yard Manure (FYM) in each tree at a rate of 20 to 25 kg/tree during winter fall (Dec to Jan). Fertilizers doses should be applied on the basis of leaf nutrient analysis and soil test. However, usually, the following recommendations may be adopted depending upon the age of the almond tree. Urea should be applied in 2 to 3 split doses. The first half dose should be applied along with DAP (full) and MOP (full) at fortnight before expected to bloom, a second dose (1/4th) of Urea should be applied about three weeks after fruit set and 3rd dose of Urea (1/4th) should be applied in May – June. Foliar spray of urea about 1.5 to 2 % may also be given for promoting fruiting bud formation and subsequent growth in the next season.
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Water requirement for almond trees:
The critical stages of an almond plantation which are most sensitive to water shortages are flowering(Feb – March) and fruit development (April-May-June). Therefore, watering must be provided during these stages for getting a higher yield of quality almond nuts. The drip irrigation watering method found very efficient in almond farming, try to adopt drip irrigation for better water management.
When and how to harvest almonds:
At the end of July, it begins to split open and between mid to late August the splits widen which exposes the shell and this allows the nut to dry. Therefore, more than 50% split stage; the nuts are normally harvested by manual plucking. Make sure it’s dry for harvesting, rain may damage nuts quality. Harvesting is done knocking the branches with sticks or manually but care to be taken to save the fruiting wood and branches while knocking the branches with sticks. Later on, the almond hull is removed manually.
Post-harvest handling in Almond farming:
Just after almond harvesting, fruits require hulling otherwise they will be damaged by fungal infection very quickly. Nuts are sun-dried or dried by forced hot air until their moisture content reaches 5 to 7 %. Polytunnels with a fan can also be used for best drying. Almond nuts are then de-hulled and shelled.
The yield of Almond Crop:
You can expect an average yield of up to 1 to 2 tonnes/hectare.
Some facts of growing almond nuts.
- The best climate for growing almonds is warm and dry summers and mild wet winters. Prefer well-drained soil of pH value 7.0
- You can expect Almonds tree bear fruit after 5 years of planting, however, it takes 10 to 12 years to reach the full nut producing stage.
- It is not recommended to use store-bought almonds for germination as they may not germinate or produce true type.
- For germination, you must use true and unroasted raw almond nuts.
- The best time to harvest almonds is when about 90 to 95% of the nuts have hulls that have split open.
- The lifespan of the almond tree is about 30 years. However, expect peak yield at 15 years.
- The USA and Mediterranean countries are the best bet for growing almonds.
- Almond farming is a profitable business in India and other countries.
- If you have enough space in the backyard, you can try growing almond trees.
The bottom line of growing almonds:
For commercial crops, you should take good care and it may be a little expensive to cultivate almonds in a bigger way.
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