With summer’s official beginning June 21, prospects for the 2010 pistachio crop looked promising — despite a slow start and a greater than usual threat from fungal diseases.

“Overall, it looks like it could be a good off-year, with good quality nuts,” says Justin Kulikov, with Primex Farms, Wasco, Calif. “With this better-than-anticipated off-year crop potential and good prices, growers are optimistic.”

Kulikov works with San Joaquin Valley growers in six counties, stretching from Kern County north to Merced County. He expects the state’s pistachio yield this year could average about 2,000 pounds per acre, depending on the amount of blanking.

At mid-May, he reports, crop development was about 10 to 14 days behind normal. However, the warmer weather since then, with temperatures in the 90-degree range, has whittled that delay to about 7 to 10 days.

“We anticipate harvest will start about a week later than normal,” Kulikov says.

To combat the increased threat of disease from this spring’s unusually cool, wet weather, pistachio growers have sprayed their trees with fungicides more often than usual. Typically, they use the chemicals to control Botryosphaeria and Botrytis fungi, spraying from one to three times between the start of bloom and the last rain. This year, orchards have been treated anywhere from two to five times.

“We’ve seen some damage,” Kulikov says. “But overall, growers have been pretty successful in controlling these diseases. Of course, we could still have blow ups later on.”

He says growers have also been spraying insecticides to control the navel orangeworm and plant bugs.