The wet, cool spring weather — including the coolest May on record — didn’t harm pistachio orchards in Kern County, says crop consultant and former pistachio grower Carl Fanucchi, Fanucchi Diversified Management, Inc., Bakersfield, Calif.
“Overall, the trees are looking good and their growth has been nice,” he says.
This follows a protracted bloom and earlier concerns that the unusual weather might adversely affect pollination.
“That’s well behind us now and it looks like the set was good and the nuts are sizing,” he says. “The pistachios are about 10 days late in development at this point. We’ll have a better handle on that when they start filling after about the middle of this month.”
He expects the extended bloom will delay the start of harvest, which normally begins around September, by at least seven to 10 days, depending on the weather this summer.
“It will be a two-harvest situation for some orchards,” Fanucchi predicts.
Not surprisingly, the wet spring increased disease control costs for growers this season. They’re applying a lot more fungicides than normal to thwart Alternaria late blight and Botryosphaeria panicle and shoot blight.
“Some orchards, which have never been sprayed for these diseases before, have been treated three times this year,” Fanucchi says. “And, those with a history of these diseases will probably be sprayed several more times. That’s not typical for this area of the state.”
Judging by the prolific growth of insect-harboring grasses in the nearby foothills, he anticipates higher pressure this year from a least two pests. Just as the leaffooted plant bug has been a problem for almond growers, he anticipates they will be a big concern for pistachio producers. Many of them included pyrethroid insecticides with their foliar nutrient sprays last month to treat for the pest.
“That will take care of the early ones that showed up mid- to late-May,” he says. “Growers who didn’t apply insecticides with their nutrient sprays will have to start spraying for the big bugs pretty soon.”
He advises growers in his area also to be on the lookout for stink bugs, which he expects to be a problem this year, once the grasslands start drying up.
As of the first of June, production prospects for Kern County’s pistachio growers were encouraging.
“The younger trees, those in the seventh to eleventh year that were light last year, are really loaded,” Fanucchi says. “And the mature trees that produced most of the nuts last year look decent. It’s nothing to brag about, but they’ll probably produce a good crop. Growers here are anticipating California’s 2010 crop to be similar in size to 2009. But, with the large acreage of young trees looking so good, the crop size could reach 425 million to 450 million pounds. We’ll get a better idea around the first of July.”
By then, he notes, many of the larger growers will have completed nut counts and analyzed for blanks. That should provide a closer estimate of the crop size.