Almond orchard life cycle study indicates low ecological impact
Food technologists can play a key role in the looming global challenge to feed 9 billion people on the planet by 2015. Several factors are driving a growing interest in understanding environmental impacts and their economic implications. Consumers are increasingly becoming more interested in the environmental effects of their food choices, while manufacturers and retailers proactively plan for supply chain stability.
LCA research from UC Davis demonstrates that reusing co-products from producing and harvesting almonds is key to the industry’s environmental impact and further reducing carbon emissions. The research, funded in part by a grant from Almond Board of California, shows that almond trees accumulate and store significant amounts of carbon and that the almond industry is making progress toward becoming carbon neutral or even carbon negative with respect to greenhouse gases (GHG).
The study, published in The Journal of Industrial Ecology, is the most exhaustive food lifecycle assessment study to date by UC Davis researchers, and it demonstrates the complexity of agricultural systems and prospects for significant environmental benefits. It models an almond orchard over its entire 25-year life cycle, from land preparation and planting the trees through the life of the trees and eventual removal.
Dr. Sonja Brodt, University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program, comments:
“Most food products result from long and complex production and supply chains, with highly variable impacts on environmental health and natural resources... The Californian almond industry is being utilized as an important case study to highlight the potential for supply chain sustainability.”
Current research from the California Almond Sustainability Program shows that 74 percent of almond growers use orchard prunings (tree wood, bark, clippings and other materials) for in-orchard chipping, composting, or energy generation.
Through the Almond Board’s new Accelerated Innovation Management initiative, there is a strong focus in exploring alternative uses of almond byproducts to make the almond industry even more efficient and sustainable.