Almond is a very popular dry fruit which is generally eaten for its energy boosting feature and is mostly grown in the part of Southern Asia and Middle East Asia. It is a medium sized tree plant from the family of rose and the edible seeds are inside a tough outer shell like a coconut and when it becomes mature, the shells split open from where the Almond nut or the fruit can be easily separated from the shell upon drying.
Almond farming has a great market potential because of the plenty of nutritional benefits contained in the dry fruit. A lot of Almond products are available in the market like Almond milk, Almond syrup, Almond flour, Almond oil etc and have a very huge demand in both local and international markets. Almonds are generally sold shelled or unshelled depending upon the demand and price.
The Almond growers can create a huge income by growing commercially using improved variety and suitable farming management skills. It can also be grown in the backyard or even in pots or containers.
We will learn more about the cultivation process in this article but First let us start with the basic description of Almond fruit.
Almond – An Introduction
Almond is a very popular and an energy provider fruit belonging to the family of Rosaceae and genus Prunus and its scientific name is known as “Prunus dulcis”. Almond grows on a deciduous tree with a height of 10 m and the trunk diameter of up to 30 to 35 cm. Botanically, It is actually a drupe and not a nut and consists of an outer hull or hard shell with the seed being inside of it.
The edible seed can be easily separated from the hard shell when it is dried upon reaching maturity. Almonds are of two types – sweet Almond and bitter Almond. It is used for various purposes like adding in sweets, milk, in various foods and also in producing oils.
Health Benefits of Almond
Almonds are a very nutritious dry fruit and are good for human health, containing around 4% water, 22% carbohydrates, 21% protein and about 50% of fat. About 100 grams of Almonds can supply 2420 kilojoules of food energy. The fruit has a rich source of the B-Vitamins Riboflavin and Niacin, Vitamin E and some essential minerals like Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium, Phosphorus and Zinc.
It is also rich in Thiamine, Vitamin B6, Folate and Choline. They also contain substantial dietary fibre, monounsaturated fat, oleic acid and polyunsaturated fat and linoleic acid. It also contains phytosterols such as beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, campesterol, sitostanol and campestanol.
Some of the health benefits are:
- Almonds have a rich source of healthy monounsaturated fats, fibre, proteins and various essential nutrients.
- It contains antioxidants that protect your cells from oxidative damage which leads to ageing and diseases.
- It is good for bone health & teeth.
- It helps in regulating cholesterol levels, particularly ‘bad’ cholesterol.
- It is good for heart health.
- It boosts immune power.
- It is good for the skin.
- It has anti-inflammatory properties.
- It regulates blood pressure.
- It is an energy booster.
- It helps in preventing colon cancer.
- It protects from diabetic situations.
- It helps in relieving constipation issues.
- It helps in weight loss providing healthy fats.
- It boosts brain functions.
Commercial Varieties of Almond
Almonds are categorised according to their taste and use. Generally, there are two types of Almonds – one with soft shell that are produced mainly in California and the other is hard shelled Spanish varieties Marcona and Desmayo that are produced in Portugal. The most famous varieties are the Indian Almonds. There are many other improved varieties available in various local regions and for large-scale commercial production, you can select a high yielding hybrid variety of Almond.
Some of the commercial varieties of Almond that are cultivated in India are:
- Main variety – Non pareil
- Hardshell varieties – Texas, Peerless and Butte.
- Softshell varieties – Rudy, Thompson and Carmel.
- Regular shell varieties – California Mission Neplus, Hanatziv, Um-el-Fahem, Be’eri, Greek and Marcona.
- Sweet Almond varieties
- Bitter Almond varieties – Price
Some other high yielding varieties are:
- California paper Shell
- Ne plus Ultra
- Le Grand
Major Almond Producing Countries
Almonds can grow in all types of soil and climatic conditions throughout the world but the top country in Almond producing is the United States of America followed by Spain and Iran. Here is a list of top 10 Almond producer countries from all over the world.
- The United States
Almonds can be grown in warm and dry summers and mild winters with a preferred pH value of 7 in well drained soil. The Almond trees can bear fruits after 5 years of planting but it takes 10 to 12 years to reach full nut producing stage. It is recommended not to use store bought Almonds for the germination process because they may not germinate and you should only use true and unroasted
Almonds. The best time for harvesting is when 90 to 95% of the nuts have become split open. Almond tree has a lifespan of about 30 years and it can produce up to 15 years. Almond farming is a profitable business in India and many other countries and you can grow them in your backyard or even in pots or containers.
Almonds have a great demand and value in the Domestic as well as International market, so the marketing is very easy and you can earn huge income from the commercial production of Almonds. You can even learn its commercial production from the existing farmers to run your business perfectly.
The initial investment requirement for farming Almonds is relatively low as compared to many other commercial crops and the plants require less caring and management. It also provides employment sources for people, especially those who are educated and unemployed.
Almonds are very nutritious and healthy so you can enjoy them in many different ways throughout the year if you have your own Almond production business.
Agro-Climatic Requirements for Almond Farming
Almonds grow best in Mediterranean climate having warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters and they should be grown above 800 to 3500 metres above mean sea level. The optimal temperature is 15 °C and 32 °C and the buds require 250 to 600 hours of chilling below 7.2 °C to break dormancy. However, they are very sensitive to cold and frost conditions so it should be avoided in Almond farming.
It is recommended to install a Frost protection system to protect the Almond plants from getting harmed by early frosts or late seasonal frosts. For this, Super-net micro sprinklers can be used for every tree with an irrigation rate of 3.5 mm per hour.
Soil Requirement in Almond Farming
Almonds can grow in a wide range of soils. However, deep, well drained and loamy soils are considered best for optimum growth. The soils should not have waterlogged conditions and high water table soils. The optimal pH should be 7.0 to 8.5 for quality yielding and high production.
Heavy or poorly drained soils are not recommended for Almond farming but it can also be grown in average soils if they are supplemented with Farmyard Manure and regular irrigation.
Propagation in Almond Farming
Almonds can be propagated either vegetatively or through seeds. The sweet or bitter nuts are procured and then they are sown directly in well prepared beds. At the time of sowing, the nuts are stratified for better germination.
During initial 10 to 12 years of Almond cultivation, Peach can be used as rootstock, however plants raised on this rootstock do not last long. The seedlings are taken with very less thickness and they are budded 10 to 12 cm above the ground level by the Shield budding method.
Land Preparation & Planting in Almond Farming
The land should be ploughed a couple of times and levelled before planting and any unwanted weeds from the previous crops should be removed. Before the last ploughing, add an appropriate amount of organic matter in the soil. Before Planting, pits should be dug of size 3×3×3 ft during September-October and planting should be done in February-March in the centre of the pit using bamboo supports to protect the plants from winds and for growing straight.
In case of vegetative propagation, a square or hexagonal system should be adapted and the budded plants should be planted with a spacing of 6×6 m for normal farming, 4×4 m for medium to high density farming and 3.5×3.5 m for under high density farming. The spacing should be made according to the type of soil, vigour of scion and availability of irrigation sources.
Pollinizer varieties should be planted in every 3rd row and their blooming period should coincide with the blooming of main varieties. About 5 to 10 beehives can be placed for effective pollination and increasing the yield by 12 to 15%. The pollinizer varieties that can be used are Jordanalo IXL, Waris and Ne Plus Ultra.
Irrigation Requirements in Almond Farming
Irrigation for Almond plants depends upon the type of soil and climatic conditions. However, it should be provided whenever there is water stress. Drip Irrigation is recommended for better utilisation of water and any excess water should be drained out in case of floods or heavy rains as the Almond plants are sensitive to water stagnation.
The most critical stages of irrigation are during flowering and fruit development, so water should be provided during these times for better yielding of the Almond nuts.
Intercultural Operations in Almond Farming
For proper establishment of Almond orchard, Training and Pruning is carried out. At the time of planting, the tree should be headed back to 1m above the ground level. 3 to 4 scaffold branches are selected for retaining them along with a few temporary branches below the trunk.
The branches which compete strongly with the primary scaffolds are removed and the tree is trained to a shape of a modified leader system. Every year during December-January, 1 year old wood is pruned when the Almond tree becomes completely dormant.
This makes them stay fruitful for about 5 years. Pruning replaces one fifth of the fruiting wood every year and in this way new spur takes place by constantly removing the spur that is no longer fruitful or useful. The suckers and water sprouts should be removed.
Intercropping in Almond Farming
For extra income and utilisation of interspaces sustainably, several crops are recommended for Intercropping during the pre-bearing stage of Almonds. The best recommended intercrops are – Saffron, Pea, Pulses, Carrot, Seed production of Turnip, Knol khol, Mustard, bulb production of Onion and Garlic, Aromatic and Medicinal plants like Lavender.
Some of these intercrops like pulses and peas help in increasing the soil fertility, turnip and mustard in pollination and the Medicinal plants act as pests or insect repellents.
Manure & Fertilisers in Almond Farming
For better understanding of the fertiliser requirement in your soil, you should opt for a soil test and then supplement the required manures and fertilisers in appropriate quantities. However, about 400 to 500 kgs of Farmyard manure should be supplemented during Land preparation @ 20 to 25 kg per tree. Fertilisation is very important throughout the growth period as Almonds are heavy feeders.
Nitrogen should be applied in 2 to 3 split doses. The initial half dose of Nitrogen should be applied along with Potassium and Phosphorus before the blooming stage and the 2nd dose (one fourth) should be given after 3 weeks of fruit setting stage and the remaining one fourth dose during the months of June-July.
Pests & Diseases in Almond Farming
The common pests and diseases found in Almond farming are:
Pests – Brachycaudus amygdaliana, capnodis tenebrionis, cerambyx dux, eccoptogster amygdaly, eurytoma amygdali, lymantria destituta, lyonetia clerkella, meloidogyne spp, mites, navel orange worm, twig borer.
Diseases – Agrobacterium tumefaciens, brown rot, cercospora circumscissa, diplodia sp., Nematodes, oak rot, polystigma ochraceum, phytophthora, rust on stone fruit, silver leaf, verticillium spp.
For the control of these pests and diseases, you can contact your local horticulture department or any agricultural universities for better information and solutions.
Harvesting & Yield in Almond Farming
Almonds become ready to harvest when the colour changes from green to yellow or when the outer shell starts to split. Generally, at the end of July, it begins to split up and in August it splits widen and the shell is exposed and this makes the nuts get dry.
It should be dry before harvesting. For harvesting, shaking the tree or knocking the branches with sticks or manually plucking are an acceptable form, but remember it should not harm the fruit. The Almonds are collected and allowed to dry in shade for some time.
The yielding depends upon the type of soil, irrigation facility, fertigation, farm management and other practises. On an average, you can expect a yielding of about 1 to 2 tonnes per hectare.
Post Harvest Management in Almond Farming
After harvesting, the fruits require hulling because it can cause fungal infection. The nuts are dried either by sun or by hot air until the moisture content reaches to 5 to 7%. For best drying, Polytunnels with fans can be used. After drying them, they are de-hulled and shelled.
Almond Farming can earn you good profits if you use proper farm management practises. You need to take extra care for large scale farming and it can be a little expensive too. The demand and value is very high, so Marketing is also easy for Almonds. Therefore, you can start Almond Farming by following proper techniques.