Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Bee Shortage Leads To Development Of Self-Pollinating Almond Trees

The USDA reports that geneticists are working to develop a self-pollinating almond tree to compensate for the rapid decline of honey bee populations

bee pollinating an almond blossom.

Photo: Brenda Anderson (flickr)

At present, honey bees are wholly responsible for almond tree pollination in California, but geneticists are working to create almond trees that would self-pollinate.

The USDA reports that geneticists from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are developing a self-pollinating almond tree to compensate for the rapid decline of honey bee populations due to Colony Collapse Disorder.

California almond growers say the shortage of bees has caused a 70% price jump in hive rentals to be used in pollinating their trees.

Another Self-Pollinating Variety

There already does exist a centuries-old variety of self-pollinating almond tree from Spain called Tuono that seems well-suited to California’s almond-producing region.

The almonds from this tree have thicker shells than the common Nonpareil variety that is preferred by American consumers, making it naturally more resistant to California’s main almond menace, the navel orangeworm.

But there is concern that the Tuono variety might be unpleasant to the American palette — the seed coat is noticeably hairier than that of the Nonpareil almond.

The present work being undertaken by ARS geneticists hopes to create a tree that produces almonds that are the best of both worlds – pleasant to American consumers and not dependent on bee pollination.

Read More: Self-Pollinating Almonds Key to Bountiful Harvests (USDA.gov)

Megan Meyer

Megan Meyer was in the company of foodies for most of her formative years. She spent all of her teens working at her town's natural food co-op in South Dakota, and later when she moved to Minneapolis, worked as a produce maven for the nation's longest running collectively-managed food co-op. In 2006, she had the distinct pleasure (and pain) of participating the vendanges, or grape harvest, in the Beaujolais terroire of France, where she developed her compulsion to snip off grape clusters wherever they may hang. In the spring of 2008, Megan interned on NPR's Science Desk in Washington, D.C., where she aided in the coverage of science, health and food policy stories. She joined Indiana Public Media in June, 2009.

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