The almond (Amygdalus communis) is a fruit tree that is part of the Rosaceae family and that has been planted since Greek and Roman times. It is highly appreciated for its fruits. These can be consumed either fresh, or in the food, pharma industries, etc. The limiting factor for the almond crop is the temperature. This is why this fruit tree species is only planted in hot areas.
Growth and fruition requirements
During the first years after planting, the almond tree has a rapid growth. The stem can be 12-m high. This species also grows many lateral branches. This leads to a rapid crown formation. The almond tree has short inter-knots and it form mixed and vegetative buds, grouped in bunches. It is a precocious species. It will bear fruit after 2-3 year from planting, but the peak of the production will be reached during the 8th year. The flower are hermaphrodites, of a white-pink color. It is a self-sterile species and the pollination is entomophilous. When starting an almond crop, it is recommended to plant 2-3 different species as this will help the pollination process. The leaves are lanceolate and have serrated margins. It can have annual fruit bearing shrubs and it is not affected by the fruition alternation. It can bear fruit on mixed branches (40-60-cm), on bouquet branches, on bending branches and on long branches. It will not loose its foliage quickly, for example, the bouquet branches can bear fruit even after 5-7 years. The fruit is a drupe (stone fruit) which bears an almond seed inside. The seeds are covered by a peel. The shape of the fruit is oblique and the color is brown.
Climate and soil requirements
It has a short vegetation period and it can be affected by autumn and spring frosts. It grows and properly develops in areas where the average annual temperature is 10.5-11 degrees Celsius. Vigorous and well taken care of trees can withstand temperatures as low as -27 degrees Celsius. The optimum vegetation period is 17-18 degrees Celsius, but it can well tolerate excessive summer temperatures. It is one of the most resilient orchard species. It prefers areas where the annual rainfall is measured around 400-450 mm, but it can also exploit the irrigation water. It has high light requirements. It needs to be planted on parcels that have a southern exposure. It doesn’t have any soil preferences. The root system can exploit rocky soils, or soils that lack nutrients, or chalky soils, but it has certain needs related to the soil’s air-water regime. The ground water must not be lower than 3-m.
Choosing and preparing the soil
Planting this species must be done taking into consideration the plant’s climate and soil requirements. Generally, the soil where the almond will have to be planted needs to have a southern exposure, must be out of the way of clod winds and the annual rainfalls must not be lower than 300 mm. The soil must be prepared during the summer season. The parcel needs to be cleaned of the vegetal residues and 30-40 tons of organic compost need to be applied per hectare. The next step would be to perform a 30-cm plough. If the soil structure is a thin one, then the depth of the plough needs to be reduced. If needed, it is recommended to level the soil. A few days before planting, run the soil through the disk cultivator.
The optimum planting period for the almond is during early spring. The following planting scheme is recommended: 5-m distance between the rows and 5-m distance between the plants on each row. After establishing the planting scheme, the parcel needs to be marked. This process consists of inserting a stake into the soil where each plant should be. please be reminded that 2-3 different almond species need to be planted for the pollination to be efficiently done. The best method should be to plant a main almond species and 2 pollinating species. We can recommend planting 2 rows with the main species and the third one with one of the pollinating species. The following steps to be taken are: digging the holes and the actual planting process. The holes can be dug manually or using the drilling tractor. The dimensions of the holes must be 40 x 40 x40 cm.
Before planting, the roots must be cleaned up. This operation must be carried out as the wounded parts of the roots must be removed or smoothed. This operation will also rejuvenate the plant’s root system. the roots that have died need to be removed and the living roots must be shortened to a 15-20-cm length. After cleaning the root system, it needs to be mulched. Mulching the roots represents the process of inserting them into a mixture of yellow soil, cattle organic compost and water. The mulching layer will help the plant better adapt to the new orchard conditions. It is recommended that the mulching layer has a sour-cream like consistency. if the almond seedlings are planted on drier days, each need to be watered using 10 liters of water.
Considering the fact that most of the times, the almond tree is planted on drier areas, it is important to also take care of the distance between the almond rows. This can be done by repeatedly ploughing, superficially using the disk cultivator, or applying herbicides. If you choose to use herbicides, make sure you remove the suckers first as these will be affected by the herbicides’ toxic effect. If there is no possibility of having an irrigation system installed, the distance between the almond rows must be planted using perennial herbs. These need to be periodically mowed once their height exceeds 10-15-cm.
This procedure needs to be done according to the soil’s and the plants’ nutrient contents. The almond reacts well to leaf fertilizers or to fertirrigation. 30 tons of organic compost can also be applied per hectare, once every 3 years. Chemical fertilizers can also be used, such as: nitrogen based, phosphorus based and potassium based. The nitrogen fertilizer needs to be applied in 3 phases. 1/3 of the dose needs to be applied during the autumn season, along with the phosphorus and potassium, 1/3 needs to be applied 2-3 weeks before blossoming, and the remaining part needs to be applied at the end of June.
Irrigations must be carried out during drier periods and in areas where the annual rainfall doesn’t exceed 00 mm. The most favorable irrigation methods are: the micro-sprinkler and drip irrigations.
During the first 3-4 years after planting, crown forming cuts must be applied to the plants. It is recommended to establish the main sustaining branches according to the species’ biological particularities. This is why the crown must have a pyramid or vase shape.
During the spring of the first vegetation year, the tree needs to be shortened to an 80-cm height, above a fruit-bearing sprout that is oriented towards the exterior. After the plant has entered its vegetation period, all buds and sprouts need to be removed from the trunk area up to a 50-cm height. Over the course of summer (August), choose 3-4 sprouts that are evenly placed on the tree, to form the crown. During the spring of the second year, definitively choose the main sprouts. If these are longer than 60-cm, it must be shortened so that all sprouts are equal. The sprout that prolongs the main axle needs to be 25-cm higher than the main sprouts. During summer, all greedy sprouts and all sprouts that grow on the superior side of the main branches must be removed.
During the third vegetation year, you must begin forming the second crown layer. The extension branch of the main axle needs to be cut above a bud that is oriented towards the exterior. Leave one vigorous sprout on the mail branches, that is located around 50-cm from the main axle and oriented towards the exterior of the crown. Take out the sprouts that grow on the superior sides of the branches. During the fourth year, choose a branch that helps you form the third crown layer. this must be 30-cm from the last layer (the second layer). All competing, greedy and interior oriented branched must be eliminated. To balance the fruit load, all annual branches must be shortened up to 4-5 sprouts.
After this period, all cuts applied to the almond must assure a balanced fruition, maintain an aired crown and eliminate weak, dry or frost affected branches. The almond tree has a large capacity or growing lateral and greedy branches. During an early plant age, these crowd the crown and must be taken out. Unlike the peach tree, the fruit-bearing branches will grow fruit for 2-3 years. This is why the branches must be taken out or shortened by 30% of their initial length.
This process needs to be performed once the fruits have reached their total maturity, or when the mesocarp cracks open and the seeds easily falls off. This operation needs to be carried out during dry days, otherwise there is a possibility of mold growing on fruits. The fruits must be manually harvested as the fruit bearing formations mustn’t be harmed. When it comes to large almond plantations, the harvesting process can be mechanically done. After harvesting, the fruits will have to be peeled off and sun dried for 3-4 days. The fruits must be then stored inside dry, well-aired and rodent-free warehouses.