Almond industry looking for a new market?
“This research doesn’t respond directly to concerns about water consumption, but it does show that almond production in California has a light carbon footprint,” saidReid Lifset, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Industrial Ecology,“Almond orchards can be a source of renewable energy and, as perennial crops, they store carbon during their life cycle — significantly offsetting carbon emissions in other stages of almond production.” -- Kevin Dennehy, Yale News, Aug. 4. 2015
This research was supported by a grant from the Almond Board of California and a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant. -- ucdavis.edu.
The article below from Yale was sent to Badlands by a well educated reader who receives publications from various universities. The reader is constantly trying to broaden the horizons and elevate the vision of Badlands from a pits of political corruption and our taste for exuberantly critical journalism.
Having read the claims made by a UC Davis researcher about the "low carbon emissions" from almond orchards, our question, based on close observation of UC and the almond industry, was: Who funded the study?
We found that the Almond Board of California, together with the USDA Specialty Crop program, funded the study. We remembered that former Rep. Dennis Cardoza and Rep. Jim Costa, both representing the world's major almond growing region, had pushed hard in the House Committee on Agriculture for recognition of California fruits and nuts (specialty crop) production.
Next, we asked what this ("objective" scientific) study might be good for and arrived at another question: Is the California almond industry going to try to peddle its orchards as a source of carbon sequestration and sell air-quality mitigation credits?
We admit that on reflection we thought that might be too dark a speculation, even when thinking about the almond industry, currently reviled for the evidence that it takes a gallon of water to produce one almond. In addition, almond, grape and cotton producers are, in the midst of this drought, pumping the aquifers of the state to dangerously low levels, largely with impunity.
This led to recalling a time when Rep. Costa, then state Sen. Costa, chair of the state Senate Agriculture Committee, found himself on the other side of a "scientific" argument with a UCLA professor of nutrition, who had taken money from an Arizona mega dairy to claim that federal standard low fat milk had just as much nutrition in it as California-standard milk did, despite a recent federal court ruling to the contrary:
When the SNF (solid non-fat) content is increased, the nutritional value of the milk increases as well. -- Shamrock Farms Company v. Veneman, US Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, July 2, 1998.
Cardoza. at the time, was chairman of the state Assembly Agriculture Committee.
In a firmly worded letter to UCLA top officials, Costa then asked who the state Legislature could trust if not the scientists in its own public higher education research universities.
We suspect that the study, "Life Cycle-based Assessment of Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Almond Production," is junk science and part of a speculative strategy of the almond board to augment Farm Bill crop-insurance payments with yet another source of subsidy, carbon credits.
You have to admit, if dubious science, it's a forward lookinginvetment strategy. The rice growers are doing it, and they are already the most highly subsidized crop in agriculture. And, after all, the government overlooks the market, and the government always protects the public's interest. -- blj
The Other Side of Almonds:
A Light Carbon Footprint
You’ve probably heard that the production of California almonds requires an immense amount of water — about a gallon per almond. But new research published in the Yale’s Journal of Industrial Ecology (JIE) reveals another, more favorable environmental dimension of almond production.
Compared with other nutrient- and energy-dense foods, almonds have a remarkably small carbon footprint — and could eventually become carbon neutral or even carbon negative.
In a multi-year lifecycle assessment analyzing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with typical almond orchard production systems in California, a team of researchers found that 1 kilogram of almonds produces less than 1 kilogram of carbon emissions. (For comparison, the Environmental Working Group estimated that beef causes more than 20 kilograms of CO2-eq emissions, cheese more than 10, and beans and vegetables around 2.)
These results are driven largely by the use of almond co-products — including orchard biomass, hulls, and shells — as sources of renewable energy and dairy feed, said Alissa Kendall, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of California, Davis, and corresponding author for two new papers published in the JIE.
By improving the use of orchard biomass, California’s almond production could eventually become carbon neutral or carbon negative, she said.
“Almond orchards capture and store a significant amount of carbon both above and below the surface over their 25 year lifecycle,” said Kendall. “This carbon storage provides a climate benefit not considered in conventional carbon footprints.”
“This research doesn’t respond directly to concerns about water consumption, but it does show that almond production in California has a light carbon footprint,” said Reid Lifset, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Industrial Ecology. “Almond orchards can be a source of renewable energy and, as perennial crops, they store carbon during their life cycle — significantly offsetting carbon emissions in other stages of almond production.”
The findings were published in two articles. They can be downloaded for free here and here.
The Journal of Industrial Ecology is a bimonthly peer-reviewed scientific journal, owned by Yale University, published by Wiley-Blackwell and headquartered at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
Alissa Kendall Publishes Results of Almond Study
Alissa Kendall, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has co-authored two related articles just published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology.
Alissa Kendall, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
She’s lead author of the first article, “Life Cycle-based Assessment of Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Almond Production, Part I: Analytical Framework and Baseline Results.” Her collaborators are Elias Marvinney, a graduate student in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences; Sonja Brodt, of the UC ANR’s Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program; and Weiyuan Zhu, a UC Davis graduate student in horticulture and agronomy. This research was supported by a grant from the Almond Board of California and a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant.
Marvinney is lead author of the second article, in collaboration with Kendall and Brodt:
California-grown almonds dominate the global market and provide more than 80 percent of the world’s commercial almonds. Both journal articles examine the environmental impact of this agricultural industry. Kendall and her colleagues noted that certain practices substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, including the strategic utilization of co-products, and the choice of water source and irrigation technology.
“Our research shows that 1 kilogram of California almonds typically produces less than 1 kilogram of CO2emissions,” Kendall explained, “which is a lower carbon footprint than many other nutrient- and energy-dense foods. These results include the use of almond co-products — orchard biomass, hulls and shells — for renewable power generation and dairy feed. Under ideal circumstances, which are feasible but not in place today, California almonds could become carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative, largely through the improved utilization of orchard biomass.”
Kendall earned her undergraduate degree in environmental engineering at Duke University in 2000. She then moved to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she obtained a master’s degree in natural resource policy, in 2004; and a joint doctorate from the School of Natural Resources & Environment, and the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, in 2007. She joined the UC Davis Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering that same year.
Her research interests focus on life-cycle modeling as applied to transportation systems, energy systems, industrial ecology, construction materials and buildings, with the goal of developing sustainable systems. In early 2014, the National Science Foundation awarded a three-year grant of $260,922 to her research project, “Dynamic Life Cycle Assessment for Critical Energy Materials: Developing a New Framework for Integrated Industrial Ecology Methods.”
The Journal of Industrial Ecology is the official journal of the International Society for Industrial Ecology, founded in 2001 to support a blossoming multidisciplinary field that analyses material, water and energy flows of industrial and consumer systems at a variety of spatial scales, drawing on environmental and social science, engineering, business and policy. The Society promotes industrial ecology as a means of finding innovative solutions to complicated environmental problems, while facilitating communication among scientists, policymakers, managers and advocates who wish to better integrate environmental concerns with economic activities.
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