The amount of pistachios a pistachio tree produces is dependent on many factors. The tree’s age, health, location, soil, nutrients, water, sunlight, temperatures, and more all play a part in the quantity of nuts a tree produces. On average, a tree grown in a commercial orchard should give between 15 and 20 lbs. of nuts once it is fully mature.
What You'll Learn Today
- How Long Does A Pistachio Tree Take To Mature?
- How Long Before A Pistachio Tree Produces Nuts?
- How Long Does A Pistachio Tree Produce?
- How Often Do Pistachio Trees Produce Nuts?
- How Much Money Does A Pistachio Tree Make?
- Are Pistachio Trees Profitable?
How Long Does A Pistachio Tree Take To Mature?
It takes about 20 years for a pistachio tree to fully mature. They are slow-growing and send down deep tap roots as they need to survive in arid places to yield a large harvest of nuts.
Producing a strong, deep root system that can reach deep water and building a good sturdy framework of branches takes time.
How Long Before A Pistachio Tree Produces Nuts?
Many things vary the length of time it takes a pistachio tree to start producing nuts.
It depends on how it has been grown, from seed, from a whip, or from a graft. Other influences are the particular cultivar, as some produce at much younger ages than others.
Farmers using specific fertilizers have found they can increase nut production in younger trees. However, this can come at a price, as the early years of a pistachio tree’s life should be spent growing strong branches and deep roots, not on producing nuts, as this can shorten the tree’s life.
Overall it can take 3, 5, or 7 years before you first see nuts appear. By 10 to 12 years, a reasonable yield should be obtained, but maximum production won’t occur until the tree is 15 to 20 years old.
In this video, you can learn more about pistachio nuts and how they are harvested and processed:
How Long Does A Pistachio Tree Produce?
Commercially grown pistachio plantations are usually highly productive for around 40 to 50 years once the trees have matured, providing they are adequately taken care of.
Pistachio trees are capable of producing nuts for over 100 years and living to around 300 years under the right conditions.
How Often Do Pistachio Trees Produce Nuts?
Pistachio trees, as they mature, often become “alternate bearing” this means they only give a heavy yield every other year.
This is because in a nut-bearing year, the tree puts vast amounts of energy into producing the nuts and requires the following year to recover.
Some farmers have success at increasing the low yielding years by providing specific nutrients that help the tree to recover more quickly.
How Much Money Does A Pistachio Tree Make?
A single female pistachio tree will yield a different weight of nuts each year – keep in mind that once they are fully grown, they tend to become alternate bearing, which means they only produce a heavy yield every other year.
Let’s look at an example. A 10-year-old female tree producing a yield of 16 lbs of nuts, with 80% of the nuts clean and split, with a value of $2.69 per lb and 20% of the nuts being either closed or shell-less with a value of $0.90 per lb.
This means 12.8 lbs at $2.69 = $34.43 and 3.21 lbs at $0.99 = $3.17.
Meaning a single 10-year-old pistachio tree at 2021 market nut value could produce approximately $37.60 worth of nuts at commercial rates.
Are Pistachio Trees Profitable?
One of the principal problems experienced by pistachio farmers is the length of time it takes before their orchards begin to produce a significant crop of pistachios. Usually this is 10 to 12 years after planting. The trees won’t reach maximum production until their 13th to 20th year.
In the meantime, money is still required for preparing the land, buying and planting the trees, setting up irrigation systems, pruning, fertilizing, weeding, pest and disease management, and so on. Not to mention property tax, insurance, labor costs, and replacement trees.
So the question “are pistachio trees profitable”, is a little challenging to answer, profitability has many variables to be taken into account.
The growing number of farmers planting large acreages will probably tell you that ultimately, yes, they are, but it takes time getting there!
Year on year, the costs involved are not insignificant and can represent approximately $1,400 to $1,600 per acre per year. Keep in mind that nut production will be almost zero for the first five years or more.
Once the trees start to produce a reasonable quantity of fruit, then the balance can be gradually redressed. Many farmers are unable to withstand the initial costs with no return. A problem that is also experienced with a few other ultimately high value crops such as truffles.
In part, this is what drives the market of pistachio nuts and makes them a high-value item.
Entire plantations can be wiped out by pests, disease, or natural disaster, so raising pistachio trees is not without risks.
Let’s see what can be achieved once you have a productive orchard. Keep in mind that many variations can affect yield – weather, variety of pistachio, maintenance, pest and disease control, feeding, watering, etc.
Yields in Pounds Per Year Per Acre – Example
- Year 5 = 250 lbs.
- Year 6 = 600 lbs.
- Year 7 = 1,300 lbs.
- Year 8 = 1,500 lbs.
- Year 9 = 2,000 lbs.
- Year 10 = 2,400 lbs.
2,200 to 2,400 lbs. is the average amount of nuts harvested per acre for mature trees.
Condition of Pistachios Harvested
- Approximately 80% of nuts harvested each year have clean split shells.
- Approximately 19.5% of nuts harvested have closed shells.
- Approximately 0.5% of nuts have separated from their shells during harvesting.
In our example, nuts that are in split shells have a value of $2.69 per lb, the nuts, when removed from closed shells and loose nuts, have a value of $0.90 per lb.
Value of Nuts Per Acre
Working from the above examples, which are just averages, as both yields and prices are prone to fluctuate, the following results would be achieved in year 5 and 10.
80% split shells = $538.00, 19.5% closed shells + 0.5% loose nuts = $49.50
Total for year = $587.50 per acre.
Compare this to revenue generated when trees are reaching close to maximum production levels.
80% split shells = $5,164.80, 19.5% closed + 0.5% loose nuts = $475.20
Total for year = $5,640.00 per acre.
On a 100-acre farm, net returns could be around $4,040 per acre once the trees are producing at full capacity, unless costs per acre can be significantly reduced or market price of the nuts changes. Remember this can go up and down!
This means net annual profits from year 10 would be:
- 10 acres of trees = $40,400
- 20 acres of trees = $80,800
- 30 acres of trees = $121,200
- 50 acres of trees = $202,000
- 100 acres of trees = $404,000
These figures don’t take into account the capital expenditure required until the trees are producing at full capacity, which would lower the values until this debt had been cleared.
This is purely for illustration purposes, and careful evaluation of the market, your land’s suitability, and the costs for managing your plantation would all need to be carefully calculated on an individual basis, as these can all have a dramatic effect on the amounts you can make.
As with all farming, there is always an element of risk. Nature is, by nature, unreliable!
As there seems to be an ever-growing interest in pistachio nuts and the consumer demand remains high, pistachio nut production can be a profitable business providing the costs of establishing and maintaining such a business are fully understood.
As the trees produce very little until they start to mature from around their 7th year after planting, it can be a sizable capital investment for any farmer, and the costs can take several years more after production commences to recoup.
However, a fully productive pistachio plantation can be a profitable venture, particularly when done on a larger scale.