Many farmers are preparing their tree orders for next year’s planting. In that regard, I have received a few questions on Independence, a self compatible variety.
What does it mean to be self compatible?
Traditionally, almonds require cross pollination in order to ensure profitable harvests. In other words, pollen from one variety needs to move to the flower of another variety in order for the flower to be fertilized and set a nut. This is why we have multiple varieties of differing pollen groups planted within almond orchards. The newly released variety ‘Independence,’ however, is a self pollinating variety, meaning that pollen from an Independence tree can pollinate and fertilize a flower from another Independence tree.
A single variety orchard has advantages over traditional 2-3 variety plantings. The obvious benefits come from the single bloom, hullsplit, and harvest timing. This provides savings in time as it may reduce the passes through the block, and even more so for growers relying on custom spraying, harvesting. These reasons where why Butte/Padre plantings were so popular.
How does the tree look?
At this point, although possibly premature, with observations of the oldest block that I know – 9th leaf – and a few younger plantings, it looks good. Yields have been up and down in the oldest block, but this has been due to frost events that have occurred in the late spring. In the younger blocks, the tree seems to bear well, and appears to have a good yielding potential based upon field observations. The trees appear to be a little smaller than Nonpareil and a little more upright. Bloom time seems to overlap well with Nonpareil, if not a day or so earlier.
Any obvious disease problems?
The past few years I have walked the a few blocks looking for symptoms of various foliar diseases in the spring time, and have found few problems. At this point, I don’t feel that this variety is overly susceptible to any one disease, but only time and increased plantings will tell if this holds true.
Do I need bees?
The million dollar question. I have heard that the variety will produce commercially acceptable crops in the absence of bees. Roger Duncan is working on determining if bees are needed by performing caged studies. This trial was established this past year, so it may take a year or two to complete the study.
Although bees may not be needed, there still may be a benefit of having bees. Observations from heavily set orchards have been made in areas that were surrounded by almonds, and thus exposed to bees. In contrast, an orchard I visited with no neighboring almonds/bees did not have the crop load expected for the age of the trees. Even though it may set a commercially acceptable crop, the presence of bees may increase nut set, thereby increasing yield. I have been recommending growers to consider at least one hive per acre to aid in pollination as I believe there is a yield benefit — as well as appeasing neighboring almond growers. Again, only time will tell if these observations are more than anecdotal evidence.
What is the marketing classification?
This is very processor dependent. Do not assume that the variety will sell as a ‘Nonpareil’ just because it is similar in color and shape. Call your processor to determine how they plan to classify the almond. Most likely it will be classified as a ‘California,’ with some potential to develop into its own classification in the future.
Overall, this is a new variety and it may have many unknown attributes. Evaluate the risks carefully before planting large orchards. There are many characteristics that we will become aware of once more plantings come into bearing age, and we always find problems with varieties once they are more widely planted (I.e. lower limb die back on Padre, bud failure on Winters, etc). I do see the variety potentially fulfilling the role of the old Butte/Padre plantings, and I am hopeful that it will develop into a successful variety.
If you have any thoughts on this variety, please feel free to comment below!
Just as a note – I did not receive any type of monetary gifts from Dave Wilson Nursery or Zaiger Genetics to write this entry.
Have a great Independence Day!