So, what is needed to start a pistachio plantation?
Pistachios have their female and male flowers on different trees. For every 10 female trees one male tree is required. Pistachio trees consist of a rootstock with an optimized root system that allows the tree to take up water and nutrients from the soil easily. When the rootstock has grown sufficiently, a graft is inserted onto the rootstock. The graft is optimized for pistachio production. For the first 3 to 4 years the pistachio tree is allowed to grow. Flowers are removed and no fertilisation takes place. All the energy is used for the growth of the tree.
It is best to determine the type of soil and its quality before selecting a rootstock or pistachio variety. Given the variations in soil texture in our district, it is very advisable to have professional soil analysis done. If in any doubt this should include a verticillium test. The soil needs to contain a certain amount of air, or needs to be sufficiently permeable to air to ensure that the roots get oxygen. The right soil could be sandy all the way through to clay soil. According to studies, we can select a suitable rootstock or variety for up to 40% of clay soils, provided that analysis is done on the soil permeability and that the slope gradient of the terrain is known.
Our district has a very suitable climate to cultivate pistachios. We enjoy long summers with high temperatures and cold winters, which are necessary so that the trees accumulate enough cold hours each year. With help from the nearest Meteorological Institute we can determine the amount of cold hours in the region. With this information we can select the variety, since they need differing amounts of cold hours on a yearly basis. Frost during spring may cause a lot of damage to the flowers, though this is very unlikely to happen in our district since the pistachio flowers in late spring, from April onwards.
The rootstock is the stem onto which we insert a graft of the selected pistachio variety. The rootstock that we are going to use will depend on several factors. This includes the type of soil, irrigation availability, and the presence of verticillium in the soil. Depending on your type of soil you will need either a very resistant rootstock or an energetically growing rootstock.
Taking your time choosing the right variety of plant is very important. Further you also have to choose between buying a grafted plant or only buying the rootstock and grafting yourself in the field. Both options work well. Grafted plants, when growing on your plantation, have the advantage that they will start production quicker. But the biggest advantage is that the plantation will be uniform. When you choose to graft your own plants you will always have the risk that some grafts won’t take.
Lately the percentage of the successful grafts done in the fields is higher than in previous years, as awareness improves about the factors which improve success.
There are many varieties of pistachios: Kerman, Sirora, Larnaka, Mateur, Kastel, Avdad, Aegina etc. Determining the most suitable variety for your plantation depends mainly on the hours of cold weather in your region, irrigation availability, and the needs of the market.
Given this there are several varieties that work well in our region: Kerman, Sirora and Larnaka.
Kerman is the reference variety, one of the highest rated pistachio varieties, with excellent taste and a white hull (normally with a big size) which is attractive to the human eye. This variety needs high amounts of cold hours (1000 cold hours) in winter. Many parts in our district fulfil this need.
Originally from Cyprus, the Larnaka variety is both vigorous and productive. The Pistachio nuts from Larnaka are medium sized and elongated with a great flavor. This variety is better suited to warmer areas of Spain and needs just 700 cold hours each winter. Flowering is early.
Created in Australia, Sirora needs 700 cold hours each winter. This is a vigorous variety with high nut production. It has medium/large nuts which are long and round with an attractive appearance. Sirora blooms earlier than Kerman.
As known, several of the rootstocks of the pistachio trees are designed for dry soils. Irrigating a dry plantation can increase pistachio harvests by 50 to 80%. Irrigated plantation are less exposed to differences in yearly production.
This does not mean that a plantation on dry ground does not yield well. We couldn’t be more privileged to find ourselves within the ideal region and climate for pistachio production.
Many of the terrains in our region are dry land. Due to the texture and depth of the Ronda soil, the pistachio tree grows as well as they would on irrigated land in other parts of Spain.
Today we cannot ignore the worldwide pressure on our environment / ecological system. To protect and heal our land and to produce healthy consumer products the only option is to produce agricultural products in an ecological way. We have the knowledge and facilities to set up an ecological pistachio plantation. If you have questions, please contact us.
After drying the pistachios to a minimum humidity, the process continues to phase 2. This separates them according to whether they are open/closed and with fruit/without fruit. We need to sort the fruits that are open to check for defects and colour. Only the ones that have no defects will pass the calibration (phase 3) and the subsequent storage. A pistachio with uniformity and quality will do well in the best markets.
About 12.000 to 7000 years ago Pistachio trees were indigenous to Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan. From there Pistachios found their way to the Middle East and later to the North African and European Mediterranean. In the days during the Arabian occupation of Spain, Pistachios found their way mainly to Andalusia. Around 1980 pistachios were introduced again in Catalonia. In 1986 commercial experiments started in Castilla La Mancha. From 2005 plantations were started in Extremadura and Andalusia. Commercial pistachio sales started in 2011 in Andalusia.