The almond ( Prunus dulcis , syn. Prunus amygdalus ) is a species of tree native to the Middle East , the Indian subcontinent and North Africa .
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The pollination of California's almonds is the largest annual managed pollination event in the world, with close to one million hives (nearly half of all beehives in the US) being trucked in February to the almond groves. Much of the pollination is managed by pollination brokers, who contract with migratory beekeepers from at least 49 states for the event. This business has been heavily affected by colony collapse disorder, causing nationwide shortages of honey bees and increasing the price of insect pollination. To partially protect almond growers from the rising cost of insect pollination, researchers at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have developed a new line of self-pollinating almond trees. Self-pollinating almond trees, such as the 'Tuono', have been around for a while, but their harvest is not as desirable as the insect-pollinated California 'Nonpareil' almond tree. The 'Nonpareil' tree produces large, smooth almonds and offers 60–65% edible kernel per nut. The Tuono has thicker, hairier shells and offers only 32% of edible kernel per nut, but having a thick shell has advantages. The Tuono's shell protects the nut from threatening pests such as the navel orangeworm. ARS researchers have managed to crossbreed the pest-resistant Tuono tree with the 'Nonpareil, resulting in hybridized cultivars of almond trees that are self-pollinated and maintain a high nut quality. The new, self-pollinating hybrids possess quality skin color, flavor, and oil content, and reduce almond growers' dependency on insect pollination.
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