If you're a fan of noshing on pistachios, news out of California might be more than a little depressing. It's harvest time, and early reports suggest that this year's crop might be down as much as 70%, reports Western Farm Press. The main problem seems to be last year's mild winter, which prevented the trees from getting their necessary "chilling hours," explains NPR. As a result, many of the normal-looking pistachios falling from trees turn out to be hollow, void of any nutty meat inside. Typically, such "blanking" affects 5% to 10% of a crop, but some orchards in the San Joaquin Valley are reporting that more than half of their nuts are hollow. Those in lower elevations in the valley are faring better. Trees in Arizona also are doing fine, but given NPR's estimate that California accounts for 99% of the nation's pistachio orchards, the overall crop is bound to be down significantly.
Other factors are at play, notably the drought and erratic blooming that is lengthening the harvest season at no small expense. Also not helping is a bacteria that threatens more than 20,000 acres of California pistachio trees, reports the Albuquerque Journal. In fact, some growers have sued one the biggest nurseries in the US, alleging they were sold infected trees, notes a post at Growing Produce. But weather seems to be the biggest problem, and one grower tells NPR that farmers are starting to worry: "If this isn't a cycle, and these changes in the weather are permanent, we're wondering what the future is going to be for pistachio growers in California." Haaretz adds news that won't cheer them up: Iran also is a leading producer of pistachios, and the nuclear deal will mean that growers there can start exporting to the US. (Here's why nuts in general may help you live longer.)