Desarrollo del pistacho en secano

Pistachio development in rainfed areas

Rainfed pistachio cultivation requires careful planning as well as optimal resource management. Normally, this type of agriculture must be monitored to ensure that the required amounts of water are available.

On the other hand, it is a farming method that offers great benefits. For example, it can increase the quality of the fruit. It is also a practice that makes it possible to make the most of arid lands and tackle current climate change.

In this post we explain what rainfed pistachio cultivation consists of. We explore its advantages and compare it with the irrigated regime. In addition, we describe the current situation of this type of agriculture in Spain.

The pistachio tree: a tree adapted to survival

El pistachero, un árbol adaptado a la supervivencia
The pistachio tree, an adapted tree with great osmotic potential.

The pistachio tree is a tree with great resistance to drought, even more than other fruit trees. It has the capacity to adapt to different types of soils, being ideal the clayey-sandy ones. In addition, its water requirement can vary.

This tree is able to survive and produce a certain percentage of fruit in adverse conditions of extreme drought. This remarkable resistance of the pistachio tree is due to its phreatophytic nature.

  • The pistachio tree has a root system capable of reaching deep into the soil to extract water. This is a vital condition for its development in arid environments.

In addition, it has a high osmotic potential. This means that the pistachio tree is very efficient in absorbing water from the soil, more efficient than the olive and almond trees. However, what most distinguishes the pistachio tree is its sophisticated mechanism to tolerate water stress.

  • In addition to its powerful root system, it has the ability to modulate or adapt root growth, depending on the availability of water. Just as it can survive in semi-desert environments and can produce with limited water resources, this tree also offers good production when the crop has plenty of water.

All these characteristics make the pistachio tree one of the most suitable trees for dry farming in the semi-arid environments of Spain. Of course, yields are somewhat lower in rainfed crops. However, it is a type of crop which, as well as being technically viable, has lower costs.

What does the cultivation of pistachio on dry land consist of?

Cultivo de pistacho en secano
Rainfed pistachio cultivation.

Rainfed agriculture is a method of cultivation in which only water from rainfall is used, without the intervention of any artificial irrigation system. Although it may involve the conservation of rainwater in reservoirs, as a complement.

Rainfed farming is very widespread in Spain, playing a fundamental role in the sustainability of agricultural practices. It mainly takes advantage of the natural resources offered by the environment, such as seasonal rainfall or soil moisture.

  • Rainfed pistachio cultivation is less demanding than the irrigated system. However, it requires minimum rainfall conditions. Therefore, it is important to have a minimum water supply during periods of prolonged drought.
  • In addition, it is usual to use organic fertilisers that bring together multiple nutrients to help the pistachio tree to resist, develop and produce.

In Spain, pistachio cultivation on rainfed land accounts for 62% of the hectares sown, while 38% is irrigated. Generally, pistachio is cultivated in the rainy season, due to the fact that in summer there is not enough water available to cover the evaporation demand.

Which pistachio varieties stand out in rainfed cultivation?

In general, the characteristics of the pistachio tree allow its cultivation both in rainfed and irrigated systems. However, there are some varieties that are more resistant than others to dry climates and to the lack of rain, so they are more profitable in rainfed farming.

Among the pistachio varieties that stand out in rainfed agriculture are the following:

  • Larnaka. It is one of the main female varieties best adapted to cultivation in rainfed conditions. It is highly adaptable to climates with few hours of cold. Its fruit has an extraordinary flavour, of medium size and elongated shape.
  • Sirora. This female variety has a high resistance to dry weather, being ideal for dry farming. It is one of the most widely planted in Spain. It has a high vigour, rapid development and early production. Its fruit is tasty and very attractive, of medium size and round or elongated shape.
  • Kerman. It is a female variety widely cultivated in the United States and Spain. It produces highly appreciated fruits, which are round, large, with a higher quantity of sugars and with a high whiteness skin.

Data on the development of rainfed pistachio in Spain

Datos sobre el desarrollo del pistacho en secano en España
Rainfed pistachio cultivation in Spain, a growing trend.

The following are some specific data on the yield and production of pistachio plantation in Spain 2022, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food:

  • Total area under pistachio cultivation: 70,232 hectares. Of which:
    • 47,235 hectares are plantations under rainfed conditions.
    • There are 15,904 hectares in production under rainfed conditions.
  • Of the total area in production, the following yields have been obtained:
    • Under rainfed conditions: 628 kg/ha.
    • Irrigated: 1,346 kg/ha.
  • The Autonomous Communities with pistachio crops on dry land are: Galicia, Navarra, La Rioja, Catalonia, Aragon, Valencia, Murcia, Castilla la Mancha, Castilla y León, Madrid, Extremadura and Andalusia.
  • The Autonomous Communities with the largest area under pistachio cultivation on unirrigated land are:
    • Castilla La Mancha: 38,092 hectares.
    • Andalusia: 4,549 hectares.
    • Extremadura: 1,435 hectares.
    • Castile and Leon: 1,066 hectares.

Advantages of rainfed pistachio cultivation

As we have explained, pistachio cultivation is one of the main plantations offering the highest profitability under the dry farming system. But it also has advantages for the land, the quality of the product and the environment. For example:

  • Soil health is increased. Erosion is minimised and soil fertility is increased.
  • It favours the optimal use of resources. Saves water, labour, energy and time.
  • Improves the quality of the fruit and can increase its flavour.
  • Minimises the need for fertilisers and herbicides.
  • Facilitates weed control.

Of course, this type of cultivation can be subject to uncertainty with regard to atmospheric phenomena that may affect production. Planning and scheduling of planting is therefore essential.

Comparing pistachio cultivation: rainfed and irrigated

Rainfed cultivation has a lower yield. In addition, this system produces a lower percentage of open fruit.

However, irrigated pistachio cultivation is associated with a greater loss of organoleptic quality of the fruit. And if the relative humidity increases, there will be a greater risk of diseases and pests.

AGROPTIMUM: a modern, profitable and sustainable production system

We are a benchmark in the agricultural sector, mainly in the cultivation of woody crops. We combine traditional experience with the most modern techniques in the field, not only to obtain the highest quality fruit, but also to promote the best profitable and sustainable agricultural practices.

At Agróptimum we are committed to excellence. This is why we have an R&D department that drives innovation and continuous improvement in agriculture.

We are proud of our track record, in which we have developed more than 4,500 hectares of crops in Spain. This positions us as leaders in production and efficient resource management.

Contact us. We invite you to discover how we increase the profitability of your agricultural projects.