Almond (Prunus amygdalus) is one of the important stone fruit grown in Pakistan. Almonds are not actually nuts. They belong to the genus Prunus, which includes plums, cherries and peaches.
It is also included in nuts according to its usage. It is very delicious with high nutritional value because of its oil contents. Almond is a high value crop and one of the most non-perishable nut fruit. When dried it can easily be kept for a year or even more.
Its market demand is always there. Previously, it was grown mainly in Baluchistan province. However, with the introduction of early ripening varieties, this has now become possible to grow the crop in comparatively dry areas of Pothwar tract where ever soil irrigation is available.
- Climatic conditions
Almond plant can be grown at 400-1000 m altitude successfully. Particularly the areas having temperature range of 0-42 C0 are favorable for its production. Heavy rainfall during flowering season can cause less fruit bearing.
While the areas having 1-20 inches annual rainfall can cause different diseases during rainy seasons (moon soon). That’s why it is recommended that it should be cultivated in cold and dry areas with less rainfall and having artificial irrigation facilities.
Sandy loam soil having good drainage is best for its cultivation. Selection of soil for its cultivation should be on scientific basis and also on agriculture expert suggestion.
Because heavy loamy soil, clayey soil, sandy soil and salt affected soils are suitable for its cultivation. For Pothwar region recommended varieties by Agriculture Research Institutes are Jardonola, Nonpareil, Ne Plus Ultra and Vesta.
Propagation through seed doesn’t gives true to type offspring. So its propagation is done through non sexual propagation method. The suitable method for non-sexual propagation is through budding or grafting. Almonds are usually grown by grafting. Because almonds are most closely related to peaches, they are usually budded to them but can also be budded to plum or apricot root-stock as well.
That said, since these fruiting trees can also be propagated via hardwood cuttings, it is natural to assume that rooting almond cuttings is possible. Cut a 10- to 12-inch (25-30 cm.) cutting from the almond. Be sure the cutting has 2-3 nice looking buds. Remove any leaves from the cutting.
Dip the cut ends of the almond cuttings into rooting hormone. Plant the cutting in a soil-less media which will allow it to be loose, well-draining and well aerated. Place the cutting with the cut end in the pre-moistened media down an inch.
It requires 300-400 mm rainfall annually. Due to long and deep root system it requires less water as compare to other deciduous fruit plants. In normal condition it is necessary to irrigate it once in fifteen days. But during summer irrigation after each week insures good quality fruit and good production.
It is recommended that by leaving each feet distance around the stem whole area under canopy should be irrigated. It should be tried that water should not directly touches the stem because it causes different diseases in stem. These diseases can cause the loss production or it may lead to plant death.
- Suitable Varieties
The following verities are best for its cultivation.
- Vesta 2. Jardonola 3.Nonpareil 4.Ne Plus Ultra 5.Mission
These varieties having soft seed coat and these are originated from California America.
- Fertilizer Requirement
Nitrogenous fertilizers are more beneficial for almond than other deciduous fruit plants. That’s why organic and inorganic fertilizer use throughout the year at-least at once is very essential. But before applying any fertilizer keep in mind the fertility status of soil and age of plant. Organic fertilizer or farm yard manure should be applied from mid-November to mid-December.
And nitrogen half dose with phosphorus and potassium full dose should be applied from flower formation to fifteen days. The remaining nitrogen dose should be applied after fifteen days of fruit formation. It is recommended that fertilizer should be applied under the whole canopy of plant with following simultaneous irrigation.
- Root-stock Preparation
Prepare the root stock nursery of apricot, peach or bitter almond. Use one year old branch of almond (Scion) for grafting. The grafting may be done into two seasons 1st in February- March and 2nd in August. After 1-1.5 year of grafting plant is ready for transplanting.
Just like other deciduous plants its transplanting should be done in December-January. If plants start flowering in nursery then the transplanting should be stopped. Commercial production will be started after 4-5 years of plant transplanting.
- Pit preparation for plant Transplanting
The pits should be ready, 2 months before transplanting the plants. For pit preparation dugout the pit having 3×3 feet dimension. The soil of upper 1 feet layer that is dugout should be mixed with the same proportion of farm yard manure and sand or clay.
The sand or clay that should be used depends upon the soil type in which we are transplanting the plants. The mixture of these three components is then sieved and filled into the pits. After it fill the pits with water. The distance between pits should be 20 feet and same between the rows. In very hot areas the distance should be reduced to 15 feet.
- Pruning of plants
Pruned off the 0.5 m of upper plant part simultaneously after transplanting. After it 3-4 branches should be remained on plants for its further flourishing. One year old branches should be pruned off after each year. If plant bears more fruits then some of the new branches should be pruned off for better quality fruit.
- Insects-Pests and disease
In Pakistan, usually Sancho scale, aphid, flat head borer and mites are common insects that attack almond plants. For the control of these insect any insecticide can be used. Root rot, gummosis, die back and short-hole are common disease in almonds. Except root rot all other diseases can be controlled by applying Bordeaux mixture and pre-marks spray during January and February months.
The main cause of root rot disease is poor drainage of soil. That’s why it is necessary to overview the soil before planting the garden, soil should be selected which has good drainage. The gummosis is due to the presence of flat head borer which makes the holes into plant stems.
It can be controlled by applying the above discussed pesticides, but the main target is to find the hole made by insect into tree and inject the insecticide into it by an injection. And the poisonous tablets having fumes making properties should be placed into these holes by covering it with wax.
- Inter cropping with other crops
Commercial production will be started after 4-5 years of plant transplanting. If we grow any leguminous crop during this duration it will not affect the growth of the plants by making more profit.
But after passing these 4-5 years of non-productive duration, inter-cropping should be avoided. If inter-cropping is done then we have to put all inputs of fertilizer to crop to avoid nutrient deficiency in the soil.
When it starts opening of outer cover (fruit coat) of fruit, it means crop is ready to harvest. After harvesting the fruits from plant the outer cover should be removed and fruit should be dried in the shade.
The average healthy and mature almonds tree can produce 50-65 pounds (23-30 kg) of nuts in Pakistan. A good yield of a mature commercial orchard run by professional almond growers is about 4500 pounds (2040 kg) of shelled nuts per hectare.