Makers of almond harvesting machines are tinkering yet again in an effort to reduce dust at harvest time.
Four companies put on displays this week at Van Duyn Family Farms, west of Escalon. They showed what they have been doing to reduce dust that can dirty windshields miles away and contribute to the air pollution that plagues many San Joaquin Valley residents.
The situation is much better than a few decades ago, when the advent of mechanical harvesting brought huge dust clouds. They could be bad enough at times to cause collisions by passing cars.
But dust remains a concern because of the stunning growth of the industry. California growers expect to harvest a record 2.25 billion pounds on about 1 million acres this year — about 80 percent of the world supply.
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“As the industry has grown, we’ve just become more visible on multiple levels,” said Gabriele Ludwig, director for sustainability and environmental affairs at the Almond Board of California.
Harvesting starts with machines that shake the trees, followed by others that sweep the crop into windrows on the ground for drying. Then come other rigs that load the nuts onto trucks that take them to processing plants.
Engineers have adjusted brushes, blowers and other components to improve on the equipment. Ludwig also had advice for the operators, such as reducing speed down the row and blowing into the orchard rather than out.
The manufacturers on hand were Exact Harvesting Systems of Modesto, Flory Industries of Salida, Jackrabbit of Ripon and Weiss McNair of Chico.
John Holland: 209-578-2385