PARLIER, Calif., April 12 (UPI) -- U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists say they've developed self-pollinating almond trees that can produce a bountiful harvest without insect pollination.
Scientists led by the USDA's Agricultural Research Service said the development is good news for almond growers who face rising costs for insect pollination because of nationwide shortages of honeybees.
The research into the self-pollinating almond trees is not new, said geneticist Craig Ledbetter, who is leading the study. He said the Tuono variety, originally from Spain, has been around for centuries. But its traits are not attractive when compared to California's most popular almond, Nonpareil.
Ledbetter and his colleagues used Tuono as the male (pollen) parent in conventional hybridizations with California-adapted almond cultivars and selections. The scientists made crosses at bloom time and came back at harvest time to collect the nuts. They then grew those nuts into seedlings and surrounded the branches with insect-proof nylon bags to exclude insects that could serve as pollinators. The seedlings bloomed and some produced fruits inside the bags, making those seedlings self-pollinating.
The Almond Board of California evaluated the almonds and said it was pleased with the skin color, oil content and, most importantly, the flavor.
The research is reported in the April issue of Agricultural Research magazine.