Most common pistachio disease and pests

There are several diseases and pests that can jeopardize the production of pistachios, such as invertebrates, pathogens, and nematodes, as well as weeds. Since pistachio trees grow all around the world, different pests and diseases of pistachios can be found depending on the growing area. However, there are some pests and diseases that can be found in almost all of the pistachio growing areas, and some of them are presented below together with the basic description.


Alternaria Late Blight (Alternaria alternata)

Alternaria Late Blight can occur on the leaves and hulls as black lesions. In the center of the leaf lesions, black spores develop in humid conditions, while on the fruits, symptoms appear as black lesions surrounded by a red margin. Since high relative humidity and dew favor the disease, Alternaria is particularly a problem in orchards irrigated by sprinklers or by flooding, as well as in late summer when there is more moisture in orchards. To control Alternaria Late Blight, a combination of different management approaches needs to be used, from weed management, through spraying, to adjusting the irrigation schedule.

Photo (Lichtemberg P, et. al. 2018. Survey of the pathogen of Alternaria late blight reveals different levels of carboxamide fungicide resistance in the main pistachio producing regions of California. Calif Agr 72(3):170-178.): Lesions on pistachio tree leaves caused by Alternaria late blight disease.

Botryosphaeria Panicle and Shoot Blight (Botryosphaeria dothidea)

Botryosphaeria Panicle and Shoot Blight occurs on almost all pistachio tree parts – shoots, fruits, and leaves. Primary infections occur in spring on vegetative and flowering buds, where the source of those infections are spores that remained on the tree from the previous growing season. The secondary infections occur on shoots, rachises, fruit, and leaves. Spores are spread with summer rain, sprinkler irrigation, or by pests. The optimum temperature for disease development is between 80°- 86°F (27°-30°C). Symptoms of Botryosphaeria Panicle and Shoot Blight can be at first seen as black lesions on shoots, leaves, and fruits.

Photo (Michailides, T. and Morgan, D.P. 2004. Panicle and Shoot Blight of Pistachio: A Major Threat to the California Pistachio Industry. APSnet Features. Online.): Symptoms of Botryosphaeria Panicle and Shoot Blight on Pistachio leave and fruits.

Botrytis Blossom and Shoot Blight (Botrytis cinerea)

Botrytis Blossom and Shoot Blight occur during the cool and wet spring, with wilting and death of tender shoots. Under humid conditions in spring, the fungus infects also inflorescences. The symptoms of the disease are more severe on male than on female trees.

Photo ( Symptoms of Botrytis on Pistachio tree.

Verticillium wilt (Verticillium dahliae)

Verticillium wilt is one of the most destructive diseases of pistachios. Fungal plant pathogen Verticillium dahliae causes verticillium wilt in many plant species. The fungus is widespread in soil, and invades the tree through the root tissue. On pistachio trees, symptoms of verticillium wilt can be seen as the leaves turn light tan and die, and eventually when wilt progress, the whole tree collapses. The best management practice against verticillium wilt is to plant resistant rootstocks.

Photo (M.W. Olsen, 1998. Verticillium Wilt, The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension): Verticillium wilts Pistachio soilborne disease that causes wilting of the whole tree.


Navel Orangeworm (Amyelois transitella)

Navel Orangeworm is a pest that feeds on a variety of fruits and nuts. It’s the primary pest of pistachios which reduces the yield and increases the production costs. In early spring Navel Orangeworm emerges from pupation, and begins oviposition on unharvested nuts on the trees, or nuts that are left on the ground. That’s why sanitation of unharvested nuts from the orchard is crucial. Navel Orangeworm has several generations per year, depending on the pistachio growing area. Larve penetrates to new crop nuts when husk begins to separate and the shell splits, therefore the Worm must go through two generations before a new crop is susceptible to attack.

Photo (Kathy Keatley Garvey; A navel orangeworm moth on pistachio nut. 

T.J. Michailides. Above ground fungal diseaes. Pest, disease and physiological disorders management. Fruit & Nut Research & Information Center, UCDAVIS.
Pistachio. Agriculture: Pest Management Guidelines. University of California Agrculture & Natural resources, IPM program (online)

Leave a Reply