The 150-million pound carryover of pistachios from last year’s crop to the 2011 marketing year contributed to this year’s lower opening price. “The industry isn’t surprised or too concerned about this level of carryover,” Matoian says. “Demand by foreign buyers continues to increase and people on the marketing side see no problems in selling the volumes they have. However, it’s incumbent for the industry to continue doing a good job in developing markets for our crops in the coming years.”

This was the second year in a row that Robinson Farms started harvesting pistachios in mid-September. Normally, harvest gets underway about two weeks earlier. “If we can start around the first of September the odds of getting rain during harvest are really reduced,” says Gary Robinson, Hanford, Calif. In addition to growing his own pistachios, he manages pistachio orchards for other owners in the Westlands Water District of western Fresno County.

“We have a three-week period during which we push hard for seven long days a week to complete the harvesting,” he says.

Rains totaling a half to three-quarters of an inch on Oct. 5 stopped harvesting for only a day. Generally, rain during harvest increases staining of the nuts,” Robinson says. “But, we had most of the crop picked before the rain and we picked the balance within four days. We had very little staining this year.”

He’s pleased with the above-average production of his trees. Yields in his mature blocks ranged from about 3,500 to 4,000 pounds per acre.

“Yield-wise we did as well or better this year as last year,” he says.

Fortunately, navel orangeworm was not a problem this year.  “I don’t know why damage from the insect was so low,” he says. “Over the years I’ve learned that just about the time we think we have navel orangeworm figured out it jumps up and bites us.”

The size of his pistachios were average to a little larger than usual. The percentage of closed shells was average in some fields and very low in others, he notes.

“It was a mild summer and the trees never looked stressed,” Robinson says. “So, I’m wondering if the nut load was more comfortable for the trees and they responded with fewer closed shells.

After starting 10 to 14 days later than usual, Andrew Farms, Inc., Madera, Calif., finished harvesting its 1,700 acres of pistachios before rain moved into the area in early October. It was an off-year for most of the older, 15-year-old and production was down from last year’s big crop, reports Mathew Andrew. On average, they produced about 1,000 pounds of nuts per acre this year, although yields dropped to 200 pounds per acre on the least-productive block. However, the five to seven-year-old trees put on a big crop, averaging 2,400 to 2,600 pounds per acre.

Although smaller than last year, the nuts from this crop were average in size and showed little to no navel orangeworm damage. He credits that to this season’s growing conditions and a timely insecticide spray in late August.