Here are some other observations made at the conference:

• A pistachio tree that was not irrigated for years still leafed out and had “a tiny crop,” said Joe Macilvaine, president of Paramount Farming.

“We’re fairly certain our pistachio trees will not suffer death even from complete removal of water,” he said. “That’s not true of almonds; almonds will die.”

A deep root system in pistachios enables them to extract water down to 20 feet.


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Macilvaine said he has been working with researchers who include University of California water management specialist David Goldhamer since the late 1980s.

His work has shown, among other things, that deprivation of water during nut fill has the greatest effect on trees.

• Beware of “media hype” surrounding the drought, said Steve Johnson, a meteorologist with Atmosphere Group International, whose address was not part of the Paramount program, but followed that event.

Johnson said talk of relief possibly coming from development of an El Nino system in the Pacific is off the mark. He pointed out that at best it would likely be a weak system and that a California drought in 1976-77 came during a weak El Nino.

He also said it’s best to take with a grain of salt reports on the other side of the spectrum, including speculation that the state’s “mega drought” could last for a century.

• Navel orange worm pressures continue to mount, said Candice Rogers, a field representative with Paramount.

She said poor sanitation and inadequate sprays, along with susceptibility from heat stress, can contribute to burgeoning populations. Rogers said it is important to rotate different chemical treatments to avoid development of resistance.

Paramount’s sister company, Suterra, manufactures puffers that can be placed in orchards to release pheromones that disrupt mating. She said if a grower’s reject damage is less than 1 percent, the puffers may not make economic sense, given that that the cost for puffers amounts to about $100 an acre.

But Rogers said it could pay if damage is greater than 2 percent and the grower has run out of options to reduce damage from the insect.

• Paramount continues to expand the handling capacity at its plants, said Dave Szeflin, vice president of operations.

“This year we’re doubling the capacity in Firebaugh,” he said.

He said the expansion is among steps that help reduce costs to growers and “spread our risk.”


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