Almond orchard management according to plant eco-physiology

Pasquale Losciale [Dipartimento di Scienze del Suolo, della Pianta e degli Alimenti (Di.S.S.P.A), Università degli Studi di Bari "Aldo Moro"]

The increasing almond consumption over the world is generating a renewed interest in this species. Over the last decades, almond production has increased in “virtuous” countries like US, Australia and Spain as they invested on research, knowledge transfer and on a well-organized extension service. At the same time Italy has remained quite passive for several decades losing its position as top producer. It is, therefore, important to analyse the winning experiences of the other countries in order to adapt their strategies at the Italian conditions. This review describes the eco-physiology of almond and tries to analyse some of the main leverage points for achieving a sustainable almond production (the design of a modern almond orchard, almond ideotype, irrigation and fertilization). As for other high revenue fruit tree species, also in almond maximization of orchard light interception should be favoured by increasing plant density. The Italian almond biodiversity should be exploited matching biodiversity and an easily recognizable product, to foster consumer loyalty. Cultivars should adapt well to changing soil, environment, and climate and should be constantly productive. Irrigation and fertilization should be performed according to the plant needs and receptivity. For this reason, it is important to deepen the knowledge on the plant behaviour as a function of the environment (eco-physiology) and of the reciprocal relations among the plant organs (leaf, fruit, shoots, storage organs, roots, buds, etc). Precision Agriculture strategies as well as the Internet of Things (IoT) approaches could definitely increase the efficiency and the efficacy of these practices. On the other hand, they can be completely useless and expensive if their adoption will not be sustained by research, innovation and an efficient extension service

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