Mix together a late harvest with its increased threat of rain, navel orangeworm damage, an excellent quality crop, and prospects of record high prices, and you have the makings of an interesting pistachio harvest.
At least that’s how veteran pistachio consultant and former grower Carl Fanucchi, Fanucchi Diversified Management, Inc., Bakersfield, Calif., sees it.
“There will probably be some early shaking and a lot of second shaking as growers try to get every nut they can off the trees,” he says. “Harvesting will continue well into October and a lot of crews will be running around the clock to get everything done.”
Like other California nut crops this year, pistachios are at least 10 days later than usual, Fanucchi notes. “Normally, earliest harvesting begins between August 25-28,” he says. “This year we’ll be lucky to get going by Sept. 10.”
And, he points out, the later the harvest, the greater the chance of deterioration in nut quality due to staining from rain — not to mention the increased possibility of a navel orangeworm infestation and development of aflatoxin.
Meanwhile, he says, estimates of California’s crop is about 360 million pounds — close to last year’s 355-million pound crop and well below the record of about 415 million pounds in 2007. That, plus a continued strong international demand and a low world supply, means California growers can expect to receive a most attractive price for their crop this year.
“A grower qualifying for all the bonuses could get $2.50 per pound for in-shell nuts,” Fanucchi says. “That’s a really handsome price.”
At the same time, quality of the nuts on the trees looks promising. “We’ve had no major insect outbreaks this year that would hurt the nuts and their fill percentage looks good,” he says. “At this point, the nuts look really pretty; they’re nice and clean.”
Fanucchi expects the wide variation in nut maturity resulting from this year’s protracted bloom will make it difficult to harvest the nuts with one shake. Consequently, many growers will probably be shaking trees twice this season. Even if they have to take a discount due to rain damage, high pistachio prices are still likely to make a second shake worthwhile, he says.
He speculates that growers who begin harvest early and follow with a second shake could delay the start of harvest for trees on later, colder ground until around Oct. 1.
“After all,” he says, “there are only so much harvesting equipment and so many crews to go around.”
Despite the possible pitfalls of a late harvest, growers are upbeat about their prospects, Fanucchi says. “There are a lot of smiles among growers who have pistachio trees in production this year.”