Criticism of California almond industry fueled by unavailable, unpublished poster

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Almond Alliance of California (PRNewsFoto/Almond Alliance of California)

RIPON, Calif., Sept. 30, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Almond Alliance of Californiareports new research from Eastern Kentucky University researcher Dr. Kelly Watson involving almond acreage growth trends was presented at theGeological Society of America’s (GSA) annual conference this week and is being called into question by the California almond community and the Almond Board of California which published this release yesterday:

The poster, “Monitoring Change in Agricultural Land and Water Usage in California’s Central Valley Using Geospatial Techniques,” and associated research have been reported by some media outlets despite the fact that it has not been made publicly available, is unpublished and is yet to be peer-reviewed. The Almond Alliance of California is concerned that the researcher hasn’t responded to repeated requests from members of the almond industry for data sources, methodology and fact-checking steps.

While the poster presented at this week’s GSA conference remains unavailable, an earlier version of the poster “Monitoring Change in Agricultural Land and Water Usage in California’s Central Valley” from this spring isavailable online on the Eastern Kentucky University website and contains several distinct inaccuracies and areas of concern, which include:

  • A description of the project’s methodology indicates that it relied on “multispectral data NAIP imagery from 2007 and 2014” to delineate almonds and other crops. National Agricultural Imaging Program (NAIP) aerial imagery for California in 2007 does not exist.
  • The maps on the poster denoting where almonds are grown in Californiaindicate significant plantings located in places like Salinas Valley andNapa Valley. Widely available annual almond acreage reports published by the USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service indicate that almonds are not grown in those regions. It is also visually apparent to residents and visitors that almonds are not grown in these regions.
  • The results narrative of the poster states that “between 2007 and 2014, 650 thousand acres were converted to almonds in California’s Central Valley.” However, annual almond acreage reports for those same years indicate 280,000 acres of growth, nearly 2.5 times less than the researchers found.

The concerns summarized here suggest that this research has not been confirmed with on-the-ground verification and is perpetuating inaccuracies about the almond industry. Representatives of the California almond community look forward to reviewing this research and dialoging with the researchers to better understand their data sources, methodology, and validation steps in order to ensure the highest level of accuracy in research related to almonds.