How to start a pistachio orchard – How to grow Pistachio Trees
Commercial cultivation of pistachio trees (especially in US) is constantly increasing during the last decades and many growers decide to shift from cotton, soybean and other plants in order to establish young pistachio trees. Growing pistachio trees commercially can be a major source of income in the long term, provided the farmer has made extensive research regarding the parameters of the cultivation.
First of all, location is maybe the most important parameter when growing pistachio trees for profit. The tree thrives in certain climate conditions and types of soil, and deviating significantly from these requirements (especially the climate) will cost you in terms of production. Secondly, pistachios do not produce a good yield until the 7th or 8th year, even with high quality management from experienced growers. You have to be patient and of course proactive to carry the costs of the first years without expecting remarkable income. To this, you have to add that pistachio tree (as many other fruit trees) has an inherent tendency toward Alternate Bearing (the tree produces a very good yield in one year and a low –if not zero- yield in the following year). This of course creates many problems, as the grower in many cases cannot project the yield of his/her orchard and cannot proceed to timely commercial agreements with merchants. Alternate Bearing also results in fluctuations in revenues from year to year and deterioration of cash flow projections. Pollination, Irrigation, Fertilization, Pruning and Pest Control are very important for the quantity and quality of production and represent the majority of costs. Finally, the harvesting is a labor intensive procedure when carried out by hand. In organized pistachio orchards in US, harvesting is made via big tractors that attach to the trees and shake the branches, so that the fruits can fall inside bins, where the sorting is made. Finding such specialized equipment and personnel at the exact time of harvesting can also be a problem, because nearly all pistachios mature at the same time in a region (e.g. California Central Valley), and pistachio farmers often struggle to hire on time those professionals.
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3. Starting a Pistachio Farm
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