Financial incentives to help almond growers meet dust reduction goals can help pay for technology that is available today.
Funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service can help growers, in some cases significantly, pay for equipment that helps reduce dust during harvest operations. Specific models of Exact, Flory, Jackrabbit and Weiss-McNair equipment are currently eligible for the program. Information about the NRCS program is available online at https://tinyurl.com/y4are248.
Last year the Almond Board of California announced its goals for 2025, an ambitious plan that also addresses water use, pest management and zero waste.
Luc Cauzza farms almonds in the Buttonwillow area of central California. In his second year using harvest equipment that does a better job of controlling dust than previous generations of harvest technology, Cauzza is starting to see measurable benefits beyond better air quality. Cauzza attributes the limited dust to lower mite populations in his orchards.
Reducing dust in his orchard operations began as a philosophical issue. Cauzza wants to reduce dust for various reasons. He farms along a busy state highway and the dust created by almond harvesting operations can create traffic hazards by limiting visibility for drivers to zero, or close to it.
Cauzza was wrapping up harvest operations when he demonstrated the capabilities of an Exact 3800 harvesting system while picking up almonds from the orchard floor next to a busy highway.
“You can stand next to these when they go by,” he said as the tractor pulled two pieces of harvest equipment down the adjacent row. “You wouldn’t want to stand here with a conventional harvester.”
The new equipment is part of a larger business plan to expand harvest capabilities on the farm, he said.
Gabriel Giesick, sales manager at the nearby Kern Machinery lot north of Buttonwillow says the technology uses water in large onboard tanks to control dust by spraying the water through emitters onto large brushes. Exact has self-propelled harvest systems with this dust-control technology, as well as pull-behind systems powered by a PTO.