California Invests in Transition to Ecological Walnut Production

California Invests in Transition to Ecological Walnut Production

In a move to help walnut growers shift towards safer, more sustainable pest management practices, this week the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) awarded a $1 million grant to Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) for the agency’s Biologically Integrated Farming Systems (BIFS) Program

Following last year’s announcement that the state would begin prohibiting chlorpyrifos, a widely used but harmful pesticide, Governor Newsom and CalEPA recognized that walnut growers–who produce California’s seventh most valuable agricultural commodity–would need new tools, skills and support. This award marks a crucial investment in alternative pest management strategies, reviving a program that CAFF pioneered back in the 1990s, working closely with the farm community to produce high quality crops using more ecologically-friendly practices. 

“CAFF brings to the table a long legacy of successful project execution and a solid on-the-ground understanding of the walnut orchard environment,” said Joe Grant, research Director for the California Walnut Board. “They combine a unique and effective educational outreach approach with a strong commitment to environmental and community values to produce real changes that benefit growers.”

Collaborating with partners including University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) and the California Walnut Board, CAFF’s project will establish six 40-acre demonstration sites throughout the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys. The project will establish pheromone mating disruption and biological control programs to manage a suite of major walnut pests, including codling moth and navel orangeworm, which historically have been controlled using chlorpyrifos and other broad-spectrum insecticides.

“This project addresses important applied research questions to develop an ecologically-based pest management system in walnuts,” said Jhalendra Rijal, Area Integrated Pest Management Advisor & Associate Director for Agricultural IPM with University of California Cooperative Extension. “We look forward to working together on this project for the benefit of California walnut growers.”

The BIFS program will include a variety of educational resources and extensive outreach activities to promote the adoption of biologically integrated practices and to foster farmer-to-farmer information exchange. “This project will allow CAFF to build on its legacy of successful work in biologically integrated orchard systems, while also expanding our current portfolio of on-the-ground programs with farmers to include a broader vision of ecological agriculture,” said Sara Tiffany, CAFF’s Director of Ecological Farming.

This proactive investment by CDFA and the Newsom administration recognizes that through a solutions-oriented and collaborative approach, California can both protect the health of its residents and sensitive ecosystems while also protecting its food supply chain and its farmers.