In 2011, for the first time ever, the value of the California almond crop surpassed the state's grape industry to move into second place, behind dairy, as the state’s top agricultural commodity, the University of California-Davis economists calculated.

“California almonds are on a roll. In the last 20 years, scientific discovery and grower ingenuity have nearly doubled almond per-acre productivity. A good yield in the 1980s was 1,400 pounds per acre. The average yield for 2011 was 2,670 pounds of shelled almonds per acre, UC Davis contended as reported by the Central Valley Business Times.

Forty years ago, California farmers produced less than 100 million pounds of almonds on about 200,000 acres of almond orchards, noted the UC Davis analysts. The improvements include mechanization, irrigation efficiency, better insect and disease management, pruning technique and fertilization advances.

“Farmers in the Central Valley now tend 760,000 acres of almond trees, producing about 2 billion pounds of shelled nuts a year. The crop, which represents 100 percent of U.S. almond production and 75 to 80 percent of world production, was valued in 2011 at $3.87 billion, surpassing table, wine and raisin grapes, which were valued at $3.86 billion,” reported the Business Times.

The newspaper quoted UC Cooperative Extension specialists, almond farmers, almond marketing board spokesmen and more about the almond success story. Techniques used to improve production are outlined. Read full story.