Nearly 600 participants in a Statewide Pistachio Day gathering in Visalia were recently served up a smorgasbord of advice on topics that ranged from new regulations on food safety and nitrates in ground water, an epidemic year for navel orangeworm in 2012, a new biopesticide to reduce aflatoxins and new cultivars that could hold promise.

“Water coalitions are running interference for you,” said Bob Beede, University of California Cooperative Extension advisor in Kings County. “You need to embrace the coalitions and fill out the paperwork to keep the coalitions helping us.”

Beede was referring to coalitions of growers that have formed to deal with regulations imposed by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. He outlined steps growers can take to meet the nutrient needs for pistachios while coming to grips with increased government scrutiny over nitrates in drinking water.

Increased paperwork can be expected in other arenas as well as water regulation, judging from remarks from Bob Klein, manager of the California Pistachio Research Board.

“Document, document, document, document” was Klein’s advice for growers out to develop farm-specific food safety plans that will be called for under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

“If you didn’t write it down, you didn’t do it,” he said.

Klein talked of other challenges to the industry that include less state funding for research and pending retirements in the University of California Cooperative Extension system. Beede himself is among those expected to retire this year.

“Sixty percent of those in Cooperative Extension will retire within a decade,” Klein said.

On a positive note, he introduced a UC farm adviser on nut crops for Fresno and Madera counties, Gurreet Brar, who had been on the job for just a week at the time of the Visalia meeting. In addition, the Pistachio Research Board is providing funding for a plant pathology specialist at the UC Kearney Agricultural Center; partnering with the California Almond Board to pay for funding an integrated pest management advisor at Kearney; and endowing a plant physiologist position at California State University, Fresno.

Klein also talked of AF36, a wheat-based biological control agent that can be applied with a modified ant bait spreader to combat a fungus that can result in aflatoxins that can cause cancer. He said the cost is about $2 per acre.

Themis Michailides, plant pathologist with UC Davis, elaborated on research that he has done on use of AF36. He said that the fungus that causes aflatoxin can be carried by the navel orange worm and there’s a special vulnerability for pistachio nuts that split early.