In Andalusia and Granada the almond tree has traditionally been cultivated on marginal lands, where no other crops were grown due to the characteristics of soil and climate, with very low yields. Despite this, the surface of almonds cultivated in Spain has increased considerably during the last years. An unusually high price that reached 9 euros per kilo in 2015, and a widespread increase in consumption worldwide, have caused the almond tree has become one of the main focuses of attention in the agricultural sector.
In fact, recently, new plantations are being planted in irrigated areas where this crop traditionally did not occur, as an alternative of high profitability. In these cases the choice of varieties can be key to avoid damage caused by frost.
During the 2017 campaign prices have stabilized between 4 and 5 euros; this fact has caused doubts to arise in the sector about the future viability of the almond tree plantations. The question that arises is whether we can compete with other producing areas of the United States whose average productions exceed 3,000 kilos per hectare at a price of 3 euros per kilo of grain, which is the average of the last 25 years.
Pistachio is another crop that is attracting interest among farmers. In fact, in Castilla-La Mancha there is an important expansion and already has 7,000 hectares, almost half of the area cultivated in Spain.
In the province of Granada, pistachio plantations have been planted with uneven results in the different regions.
The popularity of the almond trees in bloom is a tourist hook consolidated in countries like Japan but still very incipient in the Mediterranean. Little by little social networks like Instagram have revalued this agricultural landscape as an interesting resource to explore, which also occurs in weeks of low tourist season. To meet this new demand, the Consell Comarcal is promoting a pilot project of routes through flowered fields.
“The idea came up last year when we saw that many visitors were asking us where to see flowering almond fields; as we saw it could be a good initiative and this year we have created some routes, starting by signaling farms that are between Arbeca and La Floresta “, explains Iván Egea, culture technician. “They are big fields with some pretty almond trees,” he promises.
The Consell Comarcal has requested permission from the owners and has signaled two itineraries, which at the moment only announces on its website. In it he asks the tourists to respect the land, do not break flowers and never leave garbage on the ground.
The visits began last week, when the first almond trees began to bloom. And they will last until the end of the bloom of the most backward, which could occur towards the weekend of March 11. In total, The flowering period will last at most four weeks.
We talk about agriculture in the center of Castilla y León and we think of annual herbaceous crops such as cereals, oilseeds, beet, horticulture and less, except for the important vineyard, in plurianuales and ligneous. Therefore, gathering more than 150 farmers in a Pistachios pruning course has its merit …
And it is already a reality that the cultivation of pistachio has reached certain importance in our region. At least as much as to occupy some lines, from time to time, in publications of the sector; more among the incipient knowledge of the crop and even more among its new cultivators, which are practically all. And I say new because in this type of woody crops the process of empirical learning (which we already know that in the field never ends) expands in time, even more if we compare with annual crops.
Pistachio as an alternative crop is creating expectation for really being it: an alternative. Taking into account its climatic conditions, it is showing a good adaptation and development that, together with a good management, are giving their first fruits in the form of profitable harvests.
We count on the patience of the first five or six years without producing harvestable harvests, a stable price and (until now) without saw teeth. And that good management, although there will always be mistakes, we insist on not committing those already known.
For these reasons and after these formations, we increasingly use the word prudence. Prudence in the choice of varieties, planting frames, management systems, pruning, at the time of ‘giving us the accounts’ of the crop …. And the great subject of commercialization. All this oriented to this crop ends up being what it seems: an alternative.