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California Safe Soil Blog
The Beginning of a 3 Year Almond Trial
Thursday, April 07, 2016
Last week we started our most in-depth trial to date – a three year study of almond trees. Over the next three years we will be working with Dr. Edwin Lewis and his team at UC Davis to analyze the effects that our liquid fertilizer, Harvest-to-Harvest, has on almond trees. The specific objectives of this trial are to see if composted food scraps and food hydrolysate can increase soil carbon stocks; how these nutrient sources differ in their ability to provide plant nutrition and increase growth; how they differ in their potential for nitrate leaching, especially in comparison to chemical fertilizer; and what changes these products cause in soil biological communities.
To begin the trial, Amanda Hodson, a Project Scientist in Agroecology at UC Davis, a few volunteers from Dr. Edwin Lewis’ lab, some employees who work on the research site and myself went to our research plot on the outskirts of the UC Davis Campus to plant the almond trees. It was a beautiful spring day with a slight breeze – the perfect tree planting conditions. Bryan, the site manager, had prepared the field by disking the land and constructing the berms for our young almond trees. The field had been fallow for the last 5 years, so the soil necessitated a bit of work before we could plant.
We began by laying out the individual trees in their specific locations, 2 nonpareils alternating with 1 pollinator. In total, we had 86 nonpareil almonds on Krymsky rootstock and 2 pollinator varieties – 86 Monterey on Krymsky and 86 Wood Colony on Krymsky.
Bryan gave us a demonstration on how to plant the trees, which entailed the correct depth of hole to dig and how to gently remove the young trees from their plastic containers in order to refrain from damaging the roots and losing too much potting soil. After our demo, the planting began!
We grabbed our shovels, spread out along the first row and got right down to business. Although it was a fairly significant undertaking, the group found their groove and we became a mechanized tree planting assembly line of sorts. As the sun moved across the sky, slowly but surely, we made admirable progress until the final tree was planted.
When all of the trees were in the ground, we divided and conquered yet again to apply protective coverings around the base of the trees. These tree guards provide the young trees with protection against sun and wind to assist them so that they are better able to grow to their full potential.
The next steps include: laying out the drip tape to set up the irrigation system and implementing the various treatments that we will be running for the next 3 years. The experimental design for this specific project has 4 treatments: 1) Nitrogen fertilizer 2) 50% Harvest-to-Harvest (H2H) and 50% nitrogen fertilizer 3) H2H alone and 4) a control where no product is applied. Each treatment has experimental replicates, spread over 3 blocks to account for site variation. Within each replicate, samples will be taken from two trees and pooled together.
On behalf of the California Safe Soil team, we could not be more excited to be progressing with this trial and are incredibly thankful for the support and dedication we have received from everyone involved in this almond experiment. We cannot wait to see how the trees develop and how the trial unfolds. Be sure to check in for updates along the way!
The CSS Team