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Climate Smart

Can farming fight climate change?

You bet. From planting trees to regenerative farming, almonds are part of the solution.

Nature’s carbon sink.

Almond trees capture and store carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, in their wood and roots. Compared to other fruit and nut trees grown in California, almonds store one of the highest amounts of carbon per acre – 18 metric tons of carbon per acre per year.1

When you look at carbon stored in all of California’s almond trees (1.63 million acres) it nets out to 30 million metric tons.1 That’s the same as you would save from a year of any one of the following:

— taking 24 million cars off the road2 (the same number of cars driven in CA, OR, WA, and TX)
— grounding 3,134 Boeing 737s3 (approximately the fleet size of the world’s top 4 airlines)
— shutting down 29 coal fired power plants2

These agricultural forests and the carbon they capture are also an important part of how California will achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals and climate change mitigation plans.

A seriously low-carbon food.

While carbon capture is a key sustainability metric, it’s also important to look at the carbon emitted by growing almonds — from the creation of the pipes used in our irrigation systems, to the fertilizers that provide nutrition for our trees, to running the tractors used at harvest.

A lifecycle assessment of California almond production found that almond trees’ carbon capture and the use of coproducts offset over 50% of almonds’ carbon footprint.4 With further production improvements and policy changes, almond farming could eventually become carbon neutral or even carbon negative.

What’s more, almonds have a lower carbon footprint than many other foods. A University of Oxford study found that nuts are responsible for far fewer greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of food compared to things like beef, dairy and poultry.5

When it comes to transportation, almonds are perfectly suited for travel by boat thanks to their 2+ year shelf life. Transportation via cargo ships has the lowest carbon emissions of common food transport methods, producing 50 times less carbon dioxide emissions per kilometer than travel by airplane.5

Recycling our orchards captures even more carbon.

Almond orchards are a no-till environment for their 25-year lifespan. At the end of their productive lives, using a new practice pioneered by almond farmers, whole almond trees are ground up and incorporated back into the soil. Since it was introduced in 2017, nearly half of almond farmers replanting their orchards have adopted this new practice.6

This extends the trees’ lifetime of carbon sequestration by storing it in the soil, and results in other regenerative benefits like increasing soil organic matter, improving soil water holding capacity and boosting crop yields in the subsequent orchard. Farms that use whole orchard recycling sequester 2.4 tons of carbon per acre,7 each one equivalent to living car-free for a year.8

Are almond farms regenerative?

While there’s no single definition of regenerative agriculture, it’s widely accepted that this approach encourages farms to work alongside nature, helping to tackle climate change while bringing on-farm benefits. California’s almond farms inherently follow important regenerative principles like avoiding tillage and maintaining roots in the soil year-round. In fact, almond orchards aren’t tilled at all during their lifetimes and their perennial nature means roots are active all 12 months of the year.

With a core focus on increasing resiliency, carbon capture and improving soil health, recycling orchards at the end of their life is another key regenerative practice. In addition, over 30% of farms add compost to their soils,6 another way almond farms are improving soil health and sequestering carbon.

Other important regenerative practices used in almond farming include keeping the soil covered and increasing biodiversity. 42% of California almond orchards maintain native plant species as cover crops between tree rows, over half a million acres.6 What’s more, almond farmers are increasingly planting blooming cover crops designed to support pollinator health between rows and on the edges of their farms. Not only do these help bees and other beneficial insects, but they also improve soil quality and capture carbon.

Good for You & the Planet

Part of the Solution

1 California Air Resources Board. An Inventory of Ecosystem Carbon in California’s Natural & Working Lands. 2020.

2 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator. July 2023.

3 Reuters. Boeing jets emissions data highlights industry’s green challenge. April 2021. Assumes industry average 25-year operable lifespan.

4 Alissa Kendall, et al. Life Cycle–Based Assessment of Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Almond Production. Part 1: Analytical Framework and Baseline Results. Journal of Industrial Ecology. 2015.

5 Joseph Poore, et al. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science. June 2018.

6 California Almond Stewardship Platform. November 2023.

7 Emad Jahanzad, et al. Orchard recycling improves climate change adaptation and mitigation potential of almond production systems. PLoS ONE. March 2020.

8 Seth Wynes, et al. Climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions. Environmental Research Letters. 2017.