Modesto, Calif., (October 24, 2017) – Two side-by-side demonstrations of low-dust harvesting equipment from four almond equipment manufacturers were hailed as successful as scores of almond growers took time during harvest to attend.
Manufacturers Exact Harvesting Systems of Modesto, Flory Industries of Salida, Weiss McNair of Chico and Jackrabbit of Ripon participated in the events, the first of their kind. Van Duyn Family Farms, Escalon, and Holtermann Farms, Wasco, hosted the demonstrations.
“These demonstrations were a great opportunity to view the performance of harvesting equipment in the orchard and allowed growers to get a first-hand view of each machine’s effectiveness,” explained Dr. Gabriele Ludwig, director for sustainability and environmental affairs at Almond Board of California.
The almond industry’s growth, along with increased attention from air quality regulatory agencies, sparked a heightened effort by Almond Board of California (ABC) to address harvest dust concerns.
“As the industry has grown and there is so much more acreage, the dust that is there is becoming much more noticeable to the residents of the Central Valley,” said Ludwig. “These demonstrations are another example of the commitment Almond Board has made to working with the industry to reduce dust at harvest.”
The dust generated by harvest activities includes significant PM10 emissions and some PM2.5 emissions, both regulated and connected to air quality issues, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley. While the Valley is in compliance with PM10, it is not in compliance with PM2.5.
“Because all the low hanging fruit with 2.5 has already been taken care of or regulated, the air board is going after the things that are harder, and in that process, ag dust has come up, including that from almond harvesting,” Ludwig explained.
A decade of dust research funded by ABC and its partnerships with equipment manufacturers and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has resulted in methods, resources and incentives to help reduce dust generated at harvest and to keep dust created in the orchard away from neighbors.
Ludwig pointed out, “As a result of our greater understanding about how dust is generated at almond harvest, many equipment manufacturers have made changes to sweepers and pickup machines to reduce dust emissions.”
Almond Board offers some practical tips to lower dust at harvest, including reducing the harvester’s ground speed. Cutting ground speeds by half will reduce dust by 50%. ABC recommends growers and harvesters gauge the speed reduction to match orchard conditions. In orchards with loose soils, slower ground speed allows gravity to drop dirt, reducing the reliance on fans. Growers and harvesters are also advised to reduce the separator fan speed to the lowest setting possible.
NRCS representatives attended the events to discuss funding incentives available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for almond growers wishing to use clean harvest technology. NRCS more than tripled reimbursements – up to $37.50 per acre – for a maximum of three years for almond growers who use harvest equipment shown to reduce particulate matter. The incentive payments apply to growers who use equipment they purchased or who hire custom harvesters with approved lower-emission equipment. Growers interested in incentive funds should visit their county NRCS office. The San Joaquin Valley Air District is working on an incentive program, as well – stay tuned.
Almond Board offers practical guides and videos for growers and workers to encourage the adoption of good management practices for reducing dust at harvest. Visit www.almonds.com/harvestdust.