- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
The story was based on a survey released Sept. 4 by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. CDFA sent questionnaires to 688 almond growers; in all 458 responded.
Among the growers who farm 600 or more acres of almonds, 87 percent said they used groundwater for crop irrigation. Groundwater has higher salinity than surface water.
"Almonds are not salt tolerant,” said Roger Duncan, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Stanislaus County. Since many almond growers have substituted groundwater for surface water during this third year of drought, “we're seeing more salt damage in trees.”
Sbranti spoke to Merced County almond farmer Bob Weimer. He said farms dependent solely on groundwater are suffering the most. Nevertheless, the farmer said he drilled two new wells this year and plans to drill another one in the fall. One of his older wells went dry because the water table dropped.
"We can't continue this process," Weimer said. "It's not sustainable."
The CDFA survey also reported that 9 percent of almond growers have removed trees due to insufficient water availability. Ten percent of growers have decided to delay replanting of trees and 21 percent decided to delay orchard expansion, statistics that surprised Duncan because of the continuing high demand for new trees from nurseries.
"The nurseries are going full bore," Duncan said. "They can't grow enough trees."