26 April 2018

Planting pistachio trees: Step by step

The pistachio crop is fashion. We really don't know if it is a bubble... we have to wait a few year to know it. Our friends Rafa, Frand and Iñaki have decided to plant pistachio and they are proud of telling us their experiences. After looking for ideal fields, information and receiving training about this crop, they have gone on the adventure of planting about 4 hectares, which is about 750 plants of grafted pistachio.

Their fields have no irrigation system, so the planting frame has been 7x7. They used the cornicabra pistachio rootstock because it is ideal for our weather. The UCB1 pistachio rootstock is more vigorous but it needs more water and fertilizer so it was dismissed. The variety used has been Kerman with Peter male pollinator in 1/9 proportion which is, according to the books/studies, the male that most overlaps his pollination time.

When they had to buy plants, they had to make a decision that will be very important in the long term:
  1. The cheap option. To be patient to plant cornicabra  rootstock (cost from € 0.5 to € 1.5). They have to wait at least a couple of years to start grafting on them. They have to add at least another couple of years to all the plants you have grafted with an average of 3 attempts of graft/plant. You are already at almost 5 €/plant cost and the most important thing is that "it loss 4 years until you can say that your field has pistachio trees".
  2. The expensive option. That was ultimately chosen. They bought the variety of pistachio already grafted with two years on the cornicabra  rootstock (the price is 10-12 €/plant). They are sure that all tress planted grow up evenly (except from, logically, the ones lost that are, since if it is a plant of guarantees they should not be more than 2-5%)... they think that with this way they will win a couple of years with respect to the first option and they could return the initial extra cost more quickly.
Before planting tasks, it is very important to make a soil analysis to rule out the presence of whorl, lethal for this crop. At the same time, they had to pass the subsoiler several times to have a good depth. Also, Besides, they had to buy the tutors (bamboo, wood, PVC, iron, aluminium,...) and the protectors (normally made of 70cm high plastic when it is for the grafted plant and mesh when it is for  rootstock). The selection of the tutor is very important, since it will be many years doing his job. In the case of Rafa, Fran and Iñaki bought galvanized steel hollow tube recovered from a sprinkler irrigation, 225cm high and 24mm in diameter. For the pistachio, the tutor has to ensure no less than 6-8 years of good support and great height because the males have to make the high crosses, not less than 1.8m.... so they ruled out the bamboo or wood.

In order to complete the planting tasks it is necessary to water. They irrigated more than 40l/tree. It is rather than the water requirements trees, by the mechanical action of compacting and removing air from the subsoil while helping the bare root of the plant to bind as quickly and better as possible with the soil.

Regarding the sale of the product, average prices are around 5 €/kg of opened pistachio although in recent years they have even been paid at 8 €/kg. Here and now, we have to see when this installation will pay for itself, 7, 8, 10 years.... we'll see it! 

Versión en español.

12 April 2018

Villoruela: Sowing potatoes days

​Last summer, we spoke about harvesting potatoes tasks. On this occasion, we have had the great opportunity to talk again with our friend José María with the aim to know the most important items about sowing potatoes tasks... We start!

The seedbed preparation is really important before beginning to sow potatoes. The soil has to be very ground, so they use rotary harrows for that. The main goal is to avoid clods because they can damage the potatoes’ skin. Also, it is important when they have to harvest potatoes because if there are a lot of clods, the harvesting work is more difficult and potatoes could be damaged in the screening and cleaning process.

When the seedbed is ready to sow, they have to prepare seeds. In this sense, they can use different diameter (size), but 28mm-35mm, 35mm-45mm y 45mm-55mm are the most common. José María sows the smallest diameter (28mm-35mm) because he doesn't split potatoes. In Spain, "to split, or not split the seed of potatoes, that is the question"; this discussion is very typical. This fact is only performed in Spain and the main goal is to save money with seeds. Potatoes can grow without problem when they are split but farmers have the risk of transmitting diseases in the machine that is responsible for splitting. Normally, if farmer sows big diameter of seed, he has to split seed so he has to buy little seed and cheaper (small sizes are more expensive since they are more complicated to get) and seed are multiplied. The price of seed (small diameter) is about 1​.2 €/kg.

Regarding the dose of seeds, Jose María uses about 1.100 kg/he so it is about 42.000 potatoes/he with 28mm-35mm of diameter.​ Each kilogram of potatoes sowed usually produces about 45 kg ... more specifically each potato usually produce about 15 potatoes.

As you can see in Jose María's pictures, he uses a Grimme GL-34 planter of 4 rows with a hopper of 1,200 kg. He can sow about 10 he/day at 7 km/h. The distance between rows is 75cm and the potato is buried about 10cm. The planter Grimme has a system to inject a long-lasting insecticide to prevent potato beetles. This insecticide is effective in whole life of potato plants. The distance between rows is large because potatoes need an important area to grow. If potatoes are not buried, their skin is damaged by the sun and the environmental conditions and they will be green potatoes. Besides, the production is quite numerous as we have already commented.

This year the sowing tasks are being delayed due to the rains, so it will surely generate a loss of production since the cycle of the plants will be affected... they can’t delay harvesting tasks because they could have problems with meteorology in September or October.

The potatoes take about 20 days to grow up and until they are 15cm height they won't start to be watered ... we will talk about all these questions later.

Versión en español.