Like other farmers in Westlands Water District, Fresno County grower Steve Moore was informed earlier in the year that he would be receiving only 25 percent of his federal water allocation to irrigate his 480 acres of pistachios trees south of Huron, Calif. Still, he was shocked the last week of March when he was notified that his allotment was being reduced to just 20 percent.

“We’re not very happy,” Moore says. To make up the difference in the 3.5 to 4-acre feet that his trees need to produce a crop, he’ll pump more groundwater and pay more for the supplemental supplies of surface water that he’s able to buy from irrigation districts in northern California.

This 2013 water cutback follows water deliveries ranging from 30 percent to 60 percent in each of the previous four years.

He pays $100 to $150 per acre foot for the surface water he’s allotted. Last year, his pumps provided 40 percent of his total irrigation needs. He paid about $250 to $300 an acre-foot for the supplemental surface water he bought. This year, he expects his supplemental water costs to be at least that much.

“We’ve learned to live with this situation and having to pay high prices for water to meet our needs,” Moore says.

He’s already turned on his pumps this season to fill soil profiles left short of water by a dry winter. Moore will continue using groundwater and supplemental surface water for irrigation until he switches to district water in July. His Westlands water is a hedge against one of his wells going down or he has trouble finding additional surface water.

Moore is beginning his 31st season growing pistachios and takes this latest crop production challenge in stride. “I’m one of those characters who expects a good year and does everything I can to make that happen,” says Moore, a director of the American Pistachio Growers. “I enjoy the pistachio business more every year.”

Moore is encouraged by the condition of his orchards in late March as tree buds continued to swell. “We had good chilling hours, and the trees look normal,” he says.

In February, he applied a dormant oil spray to his younger trees to promote more uniform bud break.  He expects this to occur the second week of April, about a week later than usual, he notes.

This is an off-year in the production cycle of California’s alternate bearing pistachio orchards. However, new orchards will be coming into production this year to help compensate for some of the expected lower yields of the mature trees, he adds.

The prevailing winds on the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley along with the drip irrigation system Moore uses, tend to minimize disease threats and the need for fungicides in his orchards. On rare occasions, Alternaria may require treatment in June, he notes.

Meanwhile, the current state of the U.S. pistachio industry continues to support Moore’s optimistic approach to growing pistachios

“We have great quality control standards and marketing programs to ensure consumers receive a good product,” he says. “As growers we expect a good price for our pistachios, and we normally get it.”

This report is from Tree Nut Farm Press, a twice-monthly electronic newsletter published by Western Farm Press during the growing season. This edition was sponsored by Valent USA.  If would like to receive Tree Nut Farm Press go to the Western Farm Press home page (westernfarmpress.com) and sign up for TNFP and other Farm Press electronic newsletters.

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