Schedule pistachio irrigation with ease

The pistachio nut tree is a native plant from western Asia and has been traditionally cultivated in semi-arid areas of the Middle East and Mediterranean area. Due to its traditional grown area, pistachio tree is a drought-tolerant crop that can survive under severe water stress conditions. However, pistachio tree still needs water for its optimal performance, and studies have shown that proper irrigation, especially during the hottest months, increases the productivity of pistachio tree.

As with any other plant, also pistachio irrigation scheduling must be based on several determinants such as tree water requirements, soil characteristics, weather, plant characteristics, and irrigation system installed. Since the lack of freshwater is often a problem in the pistachio growing regions, especially in summer months, growers are often forced to lower the water use. While young pistachio tree should be fully irrigated, for older trees, deficite irrigation can be applied. While under-irrigation reduces growth and yield, over-irrigation can cause root rot, salinization, leaching of nutrients, etc. Therefore efficient irrigation scheduling provides correct quantities of water to the tree exactly when the tree needs it, in order to produce an optimum crop in terms of quality and quantity.

Pistachio tree water requirements and scheduling pistachio irrigation

To schedule pistachio irrigation with precision, accurate field data about orchard micro-climate, soil moisture, and orchard characteristics are necessary. Based on soil, plant and weather information decision about irrigation scheduling can be made.

Pistachio tree water requirements

Pistachio tree water requirements can be calculated based on Evapotranspiration (ET) data. Evapotranspiration is the processes of water loss from the soil surface (evaporation) and from a tree (transpiration). Therefore the ET losses from the orchard are mainly influenced by climate and pistachio tree canopy size and shape, while soil type influences on the water holding capacity, therefore how much water the tree can use from the soil.

Pistachio tree irrigation requirements can be calculated based on daily reference crop evapotranspiration (ETo), a crop coefficient (Kc) based on the time of the year and canopy size, and efficiency of the installed irrigation system (Ea).
The equation for the calculation is:

Note that Kc value change over the year, as tree canopy grows.

Example of how Kc value for Pistachio tree change over the growing period in San Joaquin Valley, based on research by Goldhamer (1992).

Crop coefficients relative to grass reference crop (ETo) for mature pistachio trees (‘Kerman’ on P. atlantica).

Soil water status can be easily and relatively cheaply measured with soil sensors. Soil sensors should be placed on at least two different depths in order to know when to start irrigating pistachio nut tree. When soil moisture level value, which indicates that pistachio tree needs water, is reached, then the irrigation should start. The value differs depending on the tools that are used for monitoring, type and characteristics of the soil, cover crop, irrigation technique (RDI, full irrigation, etc.) and irrigation system installed. Several different types of soil moisture sensors are available on the market. One of the most cost-effective and simple to use sensors are Vinduino plug-and-play sensors in combination with eOrchard irrigation control, which can measure soil moisture on 4 different depths and work plug-and-play with eOrchard.

Regulated deficite irrigation (RDI) scheduling in pistachio orchard

Regulated deficite irrigation scheduling approach can be used in pistachio orchard to save water and control vegetative growth of the trees. Based on research, deficite irrigation on mature pistachio tree has no impact on tree productivity, if applied properly. Pistachio fruit growth cycle can be divided into four phenological stages – stage I: the whole period of shell expansion, stage II: the period of shell hardening, stage III: the embryo growth, and postharvest stage. In stage II and in postharvest time, the pistachio trees are most tolerant to water stress. Therefore, in the time between the shell has expended and the initiation of rapid kernel growth, growers can reduce the water use by up to 50%. On the other side, water stressing of pistachio trees should be avoided at the leaf development stage and close to the harvest. Close to the harvest time, therefore in the III stage, pistachio tree is the most sensitive to water deficite. Lack of water in this period can have a negative impact on the pistachio yield components.

Schedule pistachio irrigation with ease

Irrigation for pistachio orchard can be easily scheduled with the use of a simple equation, however, use of precise real-time ETo and Kc values is crucial. In order to save water and to control canopy growth, regulated deficite irrigation can be used in pistachio orchard, with which pistachio growers can save up to 25% of the water on a yearly base. Namely good irrigation management and precise irrigation scheduling help lower the water usage and, therefore, lower costs, while obtaining high productivity of pistachio tree. While some growers can find calculating the amount of water applied complex and time consuming, we recommend using the eOrchard application to schedule pistachio irrigation with ease. eOrchard completely supports the whole pistachio orchard management, which includes scheduling pistachio irrigation by automatically collecting the ET0 values and calculating Kc values for any pistachio orchard, calculating daily (as well as 3-days, weekly or 10-days) irrigation time, based on irrigation system properties and orchard characteristics. Therefore, with the use of Vinduino sensor nodes and eOrchard irrigation control, the whole “when and how much water to apply” question is the past, just as well as “did we turn irrigation on or off”. Let eOrchard alert you on pistachio tree water requirements, schedule orchard irrigation for you, and allow you to control valves with your smartphone.

Learn how eOrchard can help you optimize pistachio production with ease in the latest eOrchard case study.

Kirnak H., Ak B.E. Acar I. Irrigation and irrigation management strategies of pistachio orchards. In: Ak B.E. (ed.) XI GREMPA Seminar on Pistachios and Almonds. Zaragoza: CIHEAM, 2001. p. 271-278 (Cahiers Options Mediterraneennes; n. 56)
Memmi H. 2015. Water stress thresholds for regulated deficite irrigation in pistachio trees: Rootstock influence and effects on yield quality. 2015 Elsevier B.V.
Daniele Zaccaria, Ph. D. lectures on Efficient Irrigation of Pistachio:System Selection, Maintenance, and Evaluation; Agricultural Water Management Specialist, UC Cooperative Extension
Featured image: Getty images

Leave a Reply