Innovaciones en pistacho

Innovations in pistachio

Various technological advances and ongoing biological and genetic research are radically transforming pistachio plantations, allowing for the optimisation of multiple aspects of farming practices, such as water use, plant health, integrated pest control, project monitoring and decision making.

These improvements translate into a considerable increase in crop productivity and profitability, in pistachio quality and in the sustainability of operations.

In this post we offer a cutting-edge approach to pistachio cultivation. We explore the main innovations that are being developed and integrated in Spain and around the world to guarantee maximum phytosanitary control, improvement of plant characteristics, optimisation of natural resources and process automation.

Innovations in monitoring and diagnosis and prevention

One of the key factors to guarantee the quality and yield of the production is to maintain phytosanitary control of the pistachio crop. Among the most innovative techniques applied in this area are the following:

Biological control of crop pests

Biological pest control involves the use of living organisms, such as insects or bacteria, which are naturally capable of suppressing or regulating the populations of organisms harmful to pistachio trees (pistachio trees).

It is a strategy with great benefits compared to chemical control, because it avoids environmental pollution (soil, water and air) and improves the quality of the pistachios (no pesticide residues are left on the fruit). It also helps to reduce production costs.

In pistachio trees the most important pest is a small orange insect called psylla (Agonoscena pistaciae). It is an organism that covers the leaves of the tree, prevents the action of sunlight and causes them to fall.

Some of the innovations driving plant health include the following:

  • In Iran, a major pistachio-producing country, biological control has been implemented experimentally by incorporating natural enemies of psylla, usually predatory insects such as green lacewings, ladybirds and spiders, into orchards.
  • In Spain, specifically in Castilla La Mancha, plant health of pistachio trees is also being promoted through a pioneering project.
    • Various organic crop protection products are being tested to control both psylla and clitra (Labidostomis lusitanica).

Using drones for diagnosis and prevention

Another innovation that has multiple benefits for the diagnosis and control of pistachio crops is the use of advanced detection unmanned aerial vehicles. These drones are equipped with multispectral cameras and sensors that capture high-resolution aerial images and thermal data in the plantations.

By analysing these images it is possible to obtain valuable information on growth, health and any changes in crop condition. They are images that reveal those subtle variations in plant health indicators that may go unnoticed by the naked eye.

Applications for multispectral drones include the following:

  • Monitoring. They help to monitor crops, providing detailed information on nutrition, chlorophyll content, water stress levels, early signs of disease, etc.
  • Remote sensing. They can accurately and early detect the presence of pests and nutrient deficiencies in plants. This information helps to make informed decisions on pest control, fertilisation, irrigation, etc.

Internet of Things (IoT) in pistachio cultivation

The Internet of Things involves the use of a network of physical objects (devices, sensors, digital platforms, etc.) interconnected via the internet. This makes it possible to monitor and capture various data in real time about the crop and its environment.

The network of devices can be installed in the plantation to collect, store and analyse large amounts of data from various sources, such as humidity, temperature, nutrient levels, etc.

For example, this data can be used to determine the amounts of water required by each tree at the right time and to automate the irrigation system.

Innovations in genetic improvement for pistachio growing

Genetic improvement consists of the application of techniques for the controlled selection and crossing of pistachio varieties in order to obtain superior characteristics of this plant, such as greater adaptation to climate or soil, greater resistance to diseases or less dependence on water.

For example, there are molecular techniques that focus on the analysis of plant DNA to select the most suitable species for cloning or crossing. There are also tissue culture techniques based on the controlled growth of plant cells and tissues in the laboratory to obtain new varieties with superior characteristics of interest.

In Spain, several programmes are being developed for the genetic improvement of the pistachio tree, with the main objective of improving the pistachio tree varieties available on the current market and obtaining different autochthonous varieties that are adapted to the production areas in Spanish territory.

  • Agróptimum, Acemi Spain, the University of Cordoba and some external researchers are leading a medium and long term programme (12 years) of genetic improvement of pistachio, to create varieties that adapt to various challenges of climate change (shortage of hours of cold, drought, extreme heat…) and that, at the same time, are more productive. 

Sustainable irrigation technologies

Irrigation has a direct influence on the growth, yield and quality of plants and pistachios. But it is a practice that involves intensive use of water, a scarce and valuable resource.

To minimise the environmental impact of pistachio cultivation, sustainable irrigation technologies are used to reduce water consumption and waste. Micro-irrigation systems are used that allow precise irrigation, supplying water directly to the root area of the plant. For example:

  • Soil moisture monitoring. It consists of the use of sensors that monitor the moisture levels of the roots and detect when they need water and how much water they require. This data is sent to a control station where it is processed and visualised. In this way, it is possible to adjust irrigation depending on the needs of each plantation and each tree.

The use of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the design of systems and programs capable of performing tasks associated with the human mind, such as learning, reasoning, communication and decision making.

In this context, AI has enormous potential to create intelligent systems that can integrate and analyse large volumes of data and automate operations in pistachio cultivation. For example:

For data analysis

Advanced machine learning algorithms can be developed to analyse data from various sources (sensors, drones, satellites, databases, etc.) in order to detect patterns and predict behaviour and yields. It is therefore a technology that helps in decision-making in various aspects of the crop, such as fertilisation, pest control or irrigation.

  • For example, machine learning models can be trained by feeding them large amounts of images of healthy and diseased pistachio trees. In this way they are able to analyse satellite images of the plantation to predict disease outbreaks, helping to take timely preventive measures.

For process automation

It is also possible to develop robotic systems equipped with machine learning algorithms and computer vision to automate harvesting, irrigation or nutrient application.

For example, through a prior training stage, these systems can perceive the colour, texture and size of pistachios to identify which fruits are ripe.

Blockchain technology: maximum security and traceability

The integration of blockchain technology improves visibility at every stage of the agricultural value chain and maximises product security and traceability from the farm to the final consumer.

They also help producers guarantee the quality of purchased inputs and provide greater security in negotiations, through smart contracts that trigger payment automatically, immediately upon delivery.

In this respect,

  • Agróptimum, as an innovative agricultural company, is leading the “AgriBlockchain” project to trace the supply chain and ensure traceability from seed to fruit.

Research, development and innovation: R&D&I

At Agróptimum we are committed to innovation in agriculture to make it more profitable and sustainable. We are a consulting firm that focuses on the transformation of farms. We offer fully customised services, accompanying the investor and producer throughout the process and providing them with the experience, technology and inputs they need for the viability of the crop.

We have our own R+D+i laboratory equipped with cutting-edge technology to guarantee the quality control of the crops and provide innovative developments that allow us to obtain a pistachio variety with Spanish DNA and turn Spain into a world pistachio growing power.
We are your partner for the cultivation business. Contact us, let’s talk about your project and we will take care of everything.