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Ongoing project

Pathway to carbon neutral – whole orchard recycling in almond orchards (AL21000)

Key research provider: South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI)

What's it all about?

This project is quantifying the impact of whole orchard recycling on the carbon footprint of an almond orchard, including the impact on carbon storage and turnover in the soil, soil greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon accumulation by the newly planted trees.

The information gathered through this project will support almond growers to integrate whole orchard recycling into their orchard redevelopment programs with clear expectations around carbon farming, changes in soil health, irrigation use efficiency and productivity improvements. It will also support the almond industry to improve their sustainability credentials, with the potential for whole orchard recycling to underpin practices that will allow the production of carbon neutral almonds.

Almond trees accumulate significant amounts of carbon (such as trunks, branches and roots) during their lifecycle. Unfortunately, when an orchard reaches the end of its commercial life this resources is traditionally managed through burning as part of the orchard redevelopment.

While burning rapidly clears debris from the site and can reduce pathogen load, it also releases a significant amount of carbon that could potentially be sequestered or at least incorporated to improve soil organic matter, fertility and help with it the establishment and productivity of the new orchard.

The alternative to burning the trees prior to replanting is described as whole orchard recycling. This is the pulverisation of the perennial portion of the almond trees and incorporation into the soil prior to replanting.

The project is also assessing any co-benefits from the orchard recycling such as more rapid orchard establishment and improved irrigation use efficiency and soil health and potential negative impacts such as increased pressure from soil pathogens and potential for nitrogen draw down.

Related levy funds

This project is a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Almond Fund