It may be an official off-year for California’s alternate-bearing pistachios trees, but the healthy looking trees now give Brian Blackwell reason to expect a good crop from his orchards.

Blackwell Farming Company, based in Bakersfield, Calif., grows pistachios in Kern, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties.

Blackwell made his comments in a recent issue of the subscription e-newsletter, Tree Nut Farm Press, sponsored by Cheminova.

Overall, production in California this year is expected to decline from last year’s record level. Still, Blackwell expects this to be a very good off-year for growers.”

“We had good chilling, a very pleasant spring, and all the heavy rains earlier have contributed to a good crop,” he says.

Many of his younger trees, six through eight years old, sported an early, prolific bloom this spring, but over time many of the berries started to shatter. He suspects the cause was a set too large for the trees to sustain.

If you would like to read more of Blackwell’s comments about the 2011 pistachio crop, go to where you can see the most recent issues of Tree Nut Farm Press and subscribe to the free enewsletter that is emailed twice monthly through the growing season. It is sponsored by Cheminova.

Almond hull split

There you will also read the comments of longtime PCA Sara Savary of Crop Care Associates about this year’s almond hull split.

Most of the orchards she scouts are in Madera County where this year’s nut crop looks good, even following a large nut drop in May. Given the number of newly-developing nuts on the tree then — probably more than they could sustain — Savary wasn’t surprised.

“The nuts look nice now and are sizing well,” she says.

Timely fungicide applications this spring have kept disease pressures low, she says. “Considering all the rain we had, I expected to see more disease. Although others probably put on more fungicide sprays that I did, most of our trees have had no late-season diseases, like rust or anthracnose. We let them go through the late rains without any treatments.”