Its fruit is the raw material for many products such as oil, milk, moisturizing cream… but it is used, above all, in pastries and to make nougat. Do you know which plant we are talking about this time? Yes, we are going to talk about the almond tree, a crop that is becoming increasingly important both for its by-products and for its ecological interest.
The almond has multiple health benefits. It is a good source of essential amino acids. It has a low glycemic index and is tolerated by diabetics. But the highlight is its richness in fat. 65% are monounsaturated like those of olive oil. Another quality of the almond is its antioxidant power, whose effect is due to vitamin E.
Did you know that…? Spain is the third largest producer of almonds in the world, with a harvest volume that represents 4% of the world total
Spain is the third largest producer of almonds in the world, with a crop volume that represents 4% of the world total. According to data from the Spanish National Board of Dry Fruits, in 2019 our country produced more than 62,500 tons of “high quality” grain almonds, 0.7% more than in 2018. The cultivation area exceeded 770,000 hectares according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF).
These data show the economic importance of the almond tree in our country, which generates a turnover of more than 1,000 million euros. Furthermore, its cultivation helps to maintain the rural population and the environment. Reasons more than enough to dedicate a space to the cares that this culture requires.
Origins of the cultivation of the almond tree
The almond tree has its origin in the mountainous regions of Central Asia. Through commercial routes, it was expanded through Persia, Mesopotamia and all the primitive civilizations.
The almond tree has been cultivated in Spain for 2,000 years. It was possibly introduced by the Phoenicians and later propagated by the Romans, as both traded in the almond. Its cultivation was initially established in the coastal areas, where it is still predominant, but it has also been introduced inland and even in the northern areas.
The etymological origin of the word “almond tree” comes from the Greek. Its scientific name is Prunnus amygdalus, and it belongs to the family of the rosaceae: trees with deep roots, hard wood and white or pink flowers.
In Spain there are many varieties of almond trees that can be grown. Each one has its own particularities that result in different fruits, at different times of the year. Here we show some of these varieties provided by the Centro de Edafología y Biología Aplicada Segura of the CSIC:
- Antoñeta: high productivity, medium resistance to disease and high self-fertility.
- Aylés: normally white or pink flower. Fructifies on mixed bouquets.
- Belona: self-fertile, late flowering, early harvesting, high productivity
- Cambra: late flowering, white color. Very productive and early maturing.
- Constantí: maintains good balance between production and vegetative growth.
- Mardia: early ripening and early flower density. Good tolerance to diseases.
- Marinada: late flowering with medium duration and self-fertile.
- Penta: high productivity, good disease resistance, extra late flowering and high self-fertility.
- Tardona: medium productivity, super-extra late flowering and medium disease resistance.
- Tarraco: high flower density and medium-late ripening.
- Vairo: good balance between production and vegetative growth. It has a late flowering period and is self-fertile.
- Vialfas: late flowering and good seed quality. High density and flowering. Very tolerant to frost.
Main edafoclimatic requirements of the culture of the almond tree
The almond tree survives in very complicated conditions, although in these cases it can decrease its productivity. It is a fruit tree of warm zones, reason why it is little tolerant to the cold and much to the drought. It has a long period for the ripening of the fruit. Flowering takes place in January and is not harvested until nine months later.
It can be produced on a 300 mm dry basis, but profitability is assured from 600 mm upwards. For proper pollination, the climatic factors affecting the bees (cold, frost, rain, etc.) must be taken into account.
The almond tree prefers loose and sandy soils, to avoid root asphyxiation.
The almond tree prefers loose and sandy soils, although it vegetates in loamy soils. It is not very tolerant of heavy and waterlogged soils, as it does not resist root asphyxiation and is very susceptible to attacks by Armillaria and Phytophthora.
Water requirements of the almond crop
The productivity of the almond tree is directly related to irrigation. It has been proven that a good management of the irrigation increases its production, doubling it easily and regularizing it. The greater the amount of water, the greater the production, until a maximum annual volume of water is reached above which production would no longer increase.
Most of the almond trees are grown on dry land, but the new plantations have localised irrigation and are not water limited. However, some plots receive only support irrigation when water availability permits. Drip irrigation is estimated at an average consumption of 3,000 m3/ha to achieve good production.
Optimum almond production requires an average water supply of 3,000 m3/ha
In irrigated almond trees, great productivity increases are obtained in relation to those of dry land, going from an average of 120 kg pips/ha in dry land to productions of 2,000-3,500 kg pips/ha in irrigated land.
It should be noted that the time of greatest sensitivity to lack of water is spring. During the spring the phases most sensitive to water deficit that affect production occur: flowering, fruit setting, fruit growth, vegetative growth of the tree, development of the buds, etc.
After the harvest comes a key time for irrigation. Post-harvest irrigation is related to an increase in production the following year. After the harvest and until the leaves fall it is important to keep the tree in good condition to accumulate carbohydrate reserves that will be needed at the beginning of the next cycle. The process of flowering needs carbohydrates and, as in that phase the tree does not have leaves to carry out the photosynthesis, it is necessary that it has accumulated reserves the previous year.
To obtain high yields it is necessary to make large trees, since the volume of treetops is related to production. The higher the crown volume, the higher the production.
Did you know that drip irrigation is the most efficient system in the cultivation of almonds?
The most efficient system to achieve greater productivity and quality in the cultivation of almonds is drip irrigation. With this system the development of the roots is balanced from the first moment. The aim is to create a humid strip in the zone of the roots without arriving at the flooding. This strip is achieved by overlapping the wet bulbs created by each dripper, with the type of soil being the most influential factor.
The flow rate of the drippers should be between 1.6 and 2.3 l/h and the spacing between 50 and 75 cm. In light and highly draining soils, lower flow rates and a smaller separation between them are recommended. However, in soils with capacity to retain water, drippers with higher flow rates and greater separation can be installed. Hence the importance of knowing the type of soil in order to design the irrigation system properly and efficiently, and to manage its management in terms of frequency and times of irrigation.
The drip irrigation in the cultivation of the almond tree presents great advantages, among them we emphasize:
- Less water loss through evaporation and runoff.
- As the drippers are at the level of the roots, water is taken immediately, which makes it more effective at small doses of water.
- Another important advantage of drip irrigation, is that it allows the application of diluted fertilizers in the irrigation water, a practice known as fertigation.
- By delivering water and nutrients more directly to the root system, it improves fertilization.
- By not wetting the surface, it reduces the growth of weeds.
- It allows for irrigation during the harvest or other needs required by the crop.
- Less soil compaction and greater aeration of the land is achieved, as capillaries are formed and, therefore, a better structure of the soil profile that facilitates better crop development.
- Savings in energy costs compared to irrigation systems such as sprinklers.
Do you want to grow almonds on irrigated land?
In GESTIRIEGO we can help you and give you the necessary advice to install the most suitable irrigation system for your crop, but also, help you to convert or modernize your current irrigation system and offer you one of the best pipes for underground irrigation in the market.