THE BLOG
12/09/2014 05:40 pm ET Updated Feb 07, 2015

Drought, Bees Main Topics of Conversation at Almond Conference in Calif.

The Almond Conference is set to get underway this week at the epicenter of one of the worst droughts in U.S. history.

The 42nd Annual Almond Conference, hosted by the Almond Board of California, will be held at the Sacramento Convention Center on Dec. 9-11, just across the street from the California State capitol where the drought is a daily topic of conversation among politicians, media, growers and consumers.

The event starts Tuesday, Dec. 9, with grower-focused workshops on precision ag research, pest management, quality control, and regulations, as well as a state of the industry discussion along with traditional exhibits and an opening night reception. On Wednesday and Thursday, the conference will continue to showcase research updates, demonstrations and have networking opportunities for those in the almond industry.

"You will readily notice that there is a very heavy subject-matter concentration on the issues of water and bees," said Richard Waycott, President and CEO of the Almond Board of California. "These two issues represent the biggest challenges that we're facing in growing a high-quality and plentiful crop."

California, which produces more than 80% of the world's almonds, is in the midst of one of its worst droughts on record. Despite recent rains, some scientists have gone as far as to say the Golden State is in the middle of its worst drought in 1,200 years.

Also of interest for California almond growers is a rising concern over a lack of bees. Many California varieties are self-incompatible, requiring cross pollination with other varieties to produce a healthy crop.

According to the Almond Board of California: "About 1.6 million colonies of honey bees are placed in California Almond orchards at the beginning of the bloom period to pollinate the crop. California beekeepers alone cannot supply this critical need, which is why honey bees are transported across the country to the San Joaquin Valley each year."

Water issues (from the drought and availability issues) are only making matters worse for the $4 billion Golden State almond industry. While growers can fallow or rotate out row crops during droughts, that's not an option for nut trees - which need about a decade of growth and steady water before a real payback can be seen.

"As our industry faces unprecedented challenges," Waycott added, "we hope that you will avail yourselves of all the learning opportunities during the conference, which are designed to help you continue responsibly and successfully in the face of California's severe drought."