For Bryan Jeffries, running a pickup machine while nearby schools were in session used to be impossible. The dust from harvesting operations that ranged from one-quarter-mile to 1 mile away from roads leading to the schools was enough to put the safety of people driving to school or in school buses at risk.
“It wouldn’t be responsible to pick up almonds with our old harvester when school’s in session because the dust could blow in that direction,” said the fourth-generation grower, who farms with his dad, Ryan Jeffries, as B&R Almonds, Inc., in Shafter.
Technical, Financial Assistance
Jeffries had seen low-dust harvest equipment working in the field, but thought it was too expensive. Then, Trent Goehring, with equipment dealer West Kern Machinery, told him about the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which provides technical and financial assistance to almond and walnut growers who upgrade to harvest equipment shown to reduce particulate matter (dust).
“The funds that NRCS provides brought the price in alignment with our budget, so we were able to afford the new equipment,” Jeffries explained. They purchased a new low-dust harvester in time for harvest last year.
“By having that low-dust-emission harvester, the amount of dust that comes out is minimal; it produces at least 75% less dust than our old harvester. We can operate without affecting traffic, which creates a safer environment, not to mention reducing the particulate matter that goes into the air,” he added.
Jeffries acknowledges the technical help they received from Raul Ramirez and Kathy Fuller, NRCS Bakersfield office. “They are the best, and without their help, we wouldn’t have been able to participate in these programs,” he said.
More Options for Managing Dust
Even with the low-dust harvester, Jeffries still looks at environmental conditions before harvesting, and implements best practices for reducing dust. This includes:
- Adjusting the blower spout so it blows into the orchard and away from the road;
- Setting sweeper heads one-half inch off the ground;
- Using wire tines;
- Slowing speed to reduce dust; and
- Slowing down separator fans.
Jeffries noted, “If you are going too fast, in addition to creating more dust, the separator won’t clean the product as well.”
As an added precaution, the Jeffries put signs along the roads adjacent to their harvesting operations that say “Dust Blowing” or “Equipment Crossing.” “But this is just an added feature to be more responsible,” Jeffries said.
“The NRCS program is a good program for cleaner air and traffic safety,” the Shafter grower concluded. “Anyone who can afford the equipment and can get funding from the EQIP program should look into it, because it creates a lot safer driving conditions for local traffic, and a healthier environment for our workers, our neighbors and ourselves.”
Contact your nearest USDA Service Center for information on the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program. See article “Read Up on Keeping Dust Down” for where to find resources about managing dust at harvest.
source: Almond Board