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Managing sediment runoff in vulnerable 
orchards

Managing sediment runoff in vulnerable 
orchards

With winter rains coming, almond growers should take steps to avoid sediment runoff that might find its way into nearby surface waterways. Orchards on recently worked or fine soils that have been newly planted or replanted, or are on sloping ground, are particularly prone to sediment runoff.

With winter rains coming, almond growers should take steps to avoid sediment runoff that might find its way into nearby surface waterways, according to Gabriele Ludwig, Almond Board of California (ABC). Sediment management in almond orchards has gained attention since a Merced County almond grower was recently fined $300,000 (originally $400,000) for failing to adequately address sediment runoff from a newly planted almond orchard into Peaslee Creek and the Tuolumne River.

Orchards on recently worked or fine soils that have been newly planted or replanted, or are on sloping ground, are particularly prone to sediment runoff.

“Water quality has been and is being monitored for sediment more closely by a number of agencies,” Ludwig says. “Growers should take steps to manage sediment, particularly on those most vulnerable soils.”

Some possible steps:

  • Plant native-vegetation cover crops to slow the movement of water and sediment through the orchard.
  • Install catch ponds or basins to keep water from moving off property until sediment can settle.
  • Use vegetative filter strips or ditches along the perimeter of orchards at sensitive sites, such as downgrade borders near streams, canals or riparian areas.
  • Install tailwater return systems to capture irrigation tailwater and keep it in the orchard.
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