A professional management of specialized almond groves with mechanized harvesting is possible. Romagna Impianti and FruitNet System explained how during an event held in Imola, Bologna on August 27th 2022. Organizers showed how almond cultivation could become a good alternative in northern Italy with investments that pay for themselves in 6-7 years. Over 200 people from all over northern Italy and abroad attended.
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"Everything is based on mechanization and the use of varieties that blossom late to avoid frost damage. The main varieties present in these three experimental hectares in Imola are Makako, Vialfas and Penta," explained Matteo Ferrari from FruitNet System and Michele Zaniboni from Romagna Impianti.
Marika Bianconcini from Romagna Impianti highlighted a few fundamental aspects: "plantlets with 7x7 plugs are transplanted using machines. They must be ordered 9-12 months earlier than the expected transplant date and the soil must be prepared with light mulching because, just like stone fruit trees, almond trees are affected by stagnation, especially in heavy soils. Support is provided by poles placed every 10-15 meters at 70 cm deep. We recommend a 3.20 by 1.20 meter layout, but each case should be assessed differently."
The day was organized by dividing participants into groups. Technicians described the various aspects of cultivation, then harvesting was carried out with a traditional olive or grape harvester modified to meet the characteristics of almonds. The machine proceeded at a speed of 3 km/h, but it can be set as needed.
"Setting up one hectare of specialized almond grove costs around €15 thousand. Then it takes €5000/year for crop management, mechanized harvesting included. Plants start producing on the 28th month and, considering 2-3 tons of net seed, the investment pays for itself (at the current almond prices) around the sixth-seventh month, with a productive life of at least 15 years."
Irrigation is essential to obtain an abundant production, as is fertigation. As the variety blossoms late, there should be no risk of frost, but an over-foliage anti-frost system may be useful in some areas.
Cristian Menghetti from Eurocompany talked about the commercial aspects, while Mattia Vadeburgo from I Faming reported how, thanks to probes and control units that collect data, the right amount of water and fertilizers needed can be supplied to plants avoiding waste.
Andrea Rossi from Consorzi Agrari d'Italia (CAI) said that "CAI has a technical office that can assist entrepreneurs interested in cultivation practically all over Italy, also thanks to the various agencies all over the territory."
For an almond grove to be profitable, a suitable area of at least one hectare should be set up: the larger the area, the more costs are reduced. There is also the advantage that some equipment already in use for other crops can be employed.