Discover why California nut growers are thriving by using sustainable farming practices.
California is a top producer of pistachios and almonds, with California nut growers laying claim to more than 239,000 bearing acres of pistachios from Red Bluff to Arvin and over a million almond-bearing acres. California is one of the few places on earth with the Mediterranean climate needed to grow almonds, and because of that, the state produces more than 80 percent of the world’s almond supply.
As a result, both commodities are important to California’s economy. According to a report commissioned by the American Pistachio Growers, the economic benefit of growing and processing pistachios in California is nearly $3.6 billion. A study from the University of California Agricultural Issues Center (AIC) found that the state’s almond industry generates more than 100,000 jobs and over $21 billion gross revenue across all industries in California.
Even better? Those numbers are only expected to grow. It’s a good time to be a California nut grower.
Record Season for California Almond Growers
Thanks to careful management by California almond growers and newer orchards coming into production, the state’s 2018 almond crop will result in a record-breaking harvest.
A report published by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service indicates that this year’s almond crop estimate is up 7.9 percent from the 2017 crop production of 2.27 billion pounds. Holly King, chair of the Almond Board of California and Kern County almond grower, attributes some of this success to California’s almond growers’ ability to produce almonds more efficiently while using fewer resources, leaving a smaller footprint per nut.
For example, 87 percent of almond growers in the state use demand-based irrigation scheduling, which helps conserve water. Improvements in production practices and water-saving technologies have helped reduce the amount of water it takes to grow one pound of almonds by 33 percent over the past 20 years. Additionally, nearly 80 percent of California almond orchards are using microirrigation –a low-pressure, low-flow-rate type of irrigation that can reduce the likelihood of overwatering a landscape – and as older orchards are replaced, that number is predicted to grow.
California Pistachios Farms Flourish in 2018
California pistachios are also expected to break records in 2018. Richard Matoian, President of the American Pistachio Growers, says that this year could be the American pistachio industry’s first billion-pound year on record. The demand is growing for pistachios across the U.S. and beyond, and because of the past two years’ excellent California harvests, more and more California growers are transitioning into the pistachio market – that means more acreage and more production from California pistachio farms.
Furthermore, both domestic and international pistachio shipments are continuing to increase. In 2017, approximately 437 pounds of pistachios were exported, representing an increase of 196 percent over the previous year’s exports of 147 pounds. Domestic shipments by California nut growers also increased significantly in the 2016-2017 season, totaling 195 million pounds (up from 130 million pounds during the previous season).
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