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Products: Almonds
Subject: Sustainability

Alternative fertilization practices lead to improvements in yield-scaled global warming potential in almond orchards

Authors: Nichols, P. K., Dabach, S., Abu-Najm, M., Brown, P., Camarillo, R., Smart, D., & Steenwerth, K. L.
  • Journals: Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment
  • Pages: 108857
  • Volume: 362
  • Year: 2024
This study investigates the impact of alternative fertilization practices on the yield-scaled global warming potential (YS-GWP) in almond orchards. Almond production is a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, primarily due to nitrogen-based mineral fertilizers. This research aims to identify strategies that reduce the environmental footprint of almond cultivation while maintaining yield. Field experiments were conducted in an almond orchard using three alternative fertigation practices: Advance Grower Practice (AGP), Pump and Fertilize (P&F), and High Frequency Low Concentration (HFLC). AGP is the current practice used by producers to meet annual N demand for almond tree growth; P&F is a reduction in applied N rate in response to measured N concentrations in the groundwater so that the added N and groundwater N reach the same total N applied; HFLC is a practice of applying smaller N rates per individual event. HFLC uses a greater number of fertigation events to reach similar total annual N load as other treatments. Cumulative N2O and CH4 emissions were used to determine GWP by converting the emissions to carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2eq) within a 100-year horizon. Nitrous oxide emissions were multiplied by a radiative forcing potential CO2eq of 298 and CH4 by 25 (UNFCCC, 2007). The results revealed that both P&F and HFLC reduced the YS-GWP compared to AGP. HFLC demonstrated 52–78% decrease in GWP per unit of almond yield compared to AGP, while P&F showed 48–58% decrease over AGP. These reductions were attributed to the reduced nitrous oxide emissions associated with P&F and HFLC. Further, P&F and HFLC tended to have higher N use efficiency than AGP. We demonstrate that adopting alternative fertilization practices can effectively mitigate the environmental footprint of almond orchards while maintaining crop yields. These practices offer viable options for almond growers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance sustainability, and contribute to climate change mitigation.