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)