It’s a dusty time of year. Drought, wildfires, and harvest activities all contribute to particulate matter in the air. While the first two are beyond our immediate control, there are steps almond growers can take to minimize the impact of harvest dust.
It’s also important to remember that while there are no direct regulations for dust created from almond harvesting operations, local air quality agencies may be alerted if harvest activities become a nuisance to those nearby.
In addition, dust that escapes the confines of the orchard can weigh on the goodwill of neighbors by coating nearby cars, drifting into neighboring homes through open windows, and overtaking busy roads.
A little extra dust may seem like a necessary by-product of bringing in the harvest. However, it is an unwelcome annual visitor for those who live, work, and play around almond orchards.
Tools and techniques
New visual tools to directly address the dust at harvest issue have recently been released by Almond Board of California (ABC). Based on nearly a decade of industry-funded research, a series of educational videos detail specific strategies for reducing dust and PM10 at harvest while using existing equipment.
With the ultimate goal of keeping dust inside the orchard, a new eight-minute educational video, “Managing Dust at Harvest,” combines research findings with in-orchard harvest footage and animation to illustrate specific steps that can be taken at the various stages of almond harvest: before nuts are on the ground, while sweeping, and during pickup.
A Spanish language version of this video is in development and expected to be available by mid-July.
In addition to the full-length video, three stand-alone “chapter” videos are available for each harvest stage. All of the videos described above are available at www.Almonds.com/HarvestDust.
Watch videos with your crew
Now is a great time to watch the video and begin planning with your crew - whether it’s your own employees or a custom harvester - how these practices will be implemented for the coming harvest.
Depending on your local harvest timing, it may also be time to consider how you will take on the first dust-reduction practice outlined in the video - starting with a clean orchard floor.
Making small adjustments in harvest practices can add up to great improvements in dust reduction across the growing region.
New equipment design
While these new videos and other ABC resources address existing harvest equipment, the single fastest way to reduce dust at harvest is through the purchase of new harvesting equipment specifically designed for this purpose, or by contracting with custom harvesters who use newer equipment.
As the result of a joint effort by ABC, the Almond Hullers & Processors Association, and several harvest equipment manufacturers, incentive funds are currently available for both approaches from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through its Environmental Quality Incentive Program or EQIP.
To learn more about this funding, growers can contact their local NRCS office. To find the office nearest you, visit the Almond Board’s Industry Resource Map (Almonds.com/Resources) and filter for the category “NRCS.”
Laminated technical guide
Also derived from industry-funded research are other ABC resources that can assist growers, their employees, operators, and custom harvesters in reducing dust during harvest.
Durable enough to ride along in the pickup or tractor for easy, in-field reference, laminated technical guides cover the steps discussed in the new videos. As with the videos, this tool is available in English and Spanish.
The Harvest Dust Tool Kit is an interactive resource which provides quick in-field reminders and tools with window clings as a visual reminder, a key chain to properly measure and adjust equipment, and laminated guides of the four most effective dust reduction practices.
In addition to being available at Almonds.com/HarvestDust, keep an eye out for hard copies of the tool kit and quick guides in a July mailing. To request additional copies, contact ABC at [email protected] or (209) 549-8262.
Remember to keep dust inside the orchard this season, and together, the almond industry and our Central Valley neighbors will all breathe easier at harvest.
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