The dairy and nut industries are dominant contributors to Tulare County's agricultural economy, with milk consistently ranking as the highest valued ag product, followed close behind by pistachio and almond in the top 10. The dairy industry provides economic value to a biproduct of the almond industry-- almond hulls. Almond hulls are incorporated in the herd diet, thus reducing the quantity of forage required for feed in a region sustaining a multi-year drought. This practice increases the water use efficiency of both the dairy and orchard systems.
In October 2022, the UCCE Tulare County Orchard Systems Program, led by Dr. Elizabeth Fichtner, provided an opportunity for cross-disciplinary dialogue between the animal science and plant science communities. Dairy researchers from across the United States visited Tulare County as part of a USDA-funded research team focusing on the economic and environmental sustainability of dairy enterprises. The team was hosted by Dr. Noelia Silva del Rio, UC ANR Dairy Herd Health Specialist, at the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Research and Extension Center in Tulare, CA. The group had the opportunity to visit a commercial walnut orchard during harvest operations, using the field site as a platform for discussion of cross-disciplinary topics including nutrient management, food safety, composting protocols, and water use efficiency. Additionally, dairy researchers observed the extensive damage on walnut trees caused by Agrobacterium tumefaciens, an organism familiar to all scientists for its role in revolutionizing molecular biology, but infamous to walnut growers and plant pathologists as a bacterial plant pathogen causing crown gall.