On the pest and disease side, the Navel orangeworm (NOW), the pistachio’s No. 1 pest threat, is at the highest level in years with about 1.5 percent nut rejects. The highest NOW reject percentage was 2 percent in 2007. This year’s NOW increase is mostly tied to excessive August heat which caused early hull split which made the kernels more accessible to NOW.

According to the UC Davis IPM website, the NOW creates a small pinhole in the nut meat. As the worm matures, it feeds on the entire nut causing webbing and frass. The infested nut is unmarketable.

“Paramount has proactively encouraged its growers to take proactive steps to minimize NOW damage,” Anzaldo said.

Proactive efforts include winter sanitation in orchards where mummy nuts (blanks) are shaken from the tree and disked into the soil to kill overwintering worms. Insecticides also successfully minimize NOW infestations. In addition, growers harvest early to reduce exposure to the insect.

About 99 percent of the California acreage is planted in the Kerman variety. Making inroads in plantings are two UC Davis-developed varieties called Golden Hills and Lost Hills. Of the two, Anzaldo says Golden Hills is the more planted. The new varieties can be harvested a week before Kerman which benefits the grower with an extended harvest window.

Today, good-quality soils in California can help produce “green nut” yields of 4,000 pounds per acre annually. Marginal soils with higher saline and alkali levels generally yield about 3,000 pounds per acre.

With a 1 billion pound pistachio crop in the industry’s sights, selling bin buster crops in the future centers on expanded global pistachio marketing.