ARS Scientists Develop Self-pollinating Almond
April 6, 2010
Self-pollinating almond trees that can
produce a bountiful harvest without insect pollination are being developed by
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists. This is good news for almond growers who face rising costs for
insect pollination because of nationwide shortages of honey bees due to
Disorder (CCD) and other factors.
Ledbetter, at the agencys
Diseases, Pests and Genetics Research Unit near Parlier, Calif., is
developing this new line of self-pollinating almond trees.
Self-pollinating almonds are not new. The Tuono variety, originally from
Spain, has been around for centuries. But its traits are not attractive when
compared to Californias most popular almond, Nonpareil.
Tuonos seed coat has a hairy texture and it has a very thick shell, so
only 32 percent of the nut is edible kernel, compared to 60 to 65 percent for
Nonpareil. But Tuonos thick shell gives it more resistance to the navel
orangeworm and other pests. An almond that has traits from both varieties would
Ledbetter and his collaborators used Tuono as the male (pollen) parent in
conventional hybridizations with California-adapted almond cultivars and
selections. The scientists made crosses at bloom time and came back at harvest
time to collect the nuts. They then grew those nuts into seedlings and
surrounded the branches with insect-proof nylon bags to exclude insects that
could serve as pollinators. The seedlings bloomed and some produced fruits
inside the bags, making these seedlings self-pollinating.
The original plantings in 1996 at first produced only small harvests, but by
2006 produced excellent results. In November 2008, after a very good almond
harvest, Ledbetter and his team from Parlier brought eight very promising
selections from his self-pollinating almond breeding program to the
Board of California for evaluation.
The board was pleased with the skin color, oil content and, most
importantly, the flavor. And best of all, the new almonds have many of the same
characteristics as Nonpareil, which sells for premium prices.
more about this research in the April 2010 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA). The research supports the USDA priority of promoting
international food security.