Pistachios grown in the Okanagan? Researchers think climate change might make it possible - InfoNews

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Pistachios grown in the Okanagan? Researchers think climate change might make it possible

Okanagan grown pistachios? Research scientist Kirsten Hannam speculates they could be a future cash crop for the Okanagan valley as climate change continues to make the valley hotter and drier.
July 14, 2019 - 12:00 PM

PENTICTON - Climate change is altering growing conditions in the Okanagan and Summerland Research Centre scientists are starting to think about the valley’s cash crops of tomorrow.

Research scientist and systems Agro-ecologist Dr. Kirsten Hannam spoke to INFOnews.ca about an informal discussion she had recently with South Okanagan West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings and what crops might be successfully grown in the future.

She speculates pistachios may someday be a viable Okanagan crop.

“We didn’t do any economic analysis, but pistachios came to mind while conjecturing about what might be viable in the future,” Hannam said.

Pistachios favour deep, coarse textured soil, which is typically found in the Okanagan, and they like summer temperatures above 37 Celsius.

“We are seeing an increasing number of days above 35 C. Looking ahead, pistachios might be a viable crop,” she said.

Pistachios can handle infrequent irrigation, which also bodes well for an Okanagan crop where water conservation could be practised.

The tree, which is a member of the cashew family, also likes low humidity, and are widely grown in California. Hannam said she is looking at California and other semi-arid areas world wide to see what is growing there and what might be viable here.

Almonds are another crop that might also become viable, but Hannam says their need for lots of water sets off alarm bells as a potential Okanagan crop.

It’s likely to take several more decades before the Okanagan climate changes enough to allow such crops to grow, but things are changing fast.

“Cherries now grow a lot further north in the valley, and they grow higher up the valley sides. We’re now planting new grape varieties that didn’t thrive here before,” she said.

“It’s certainly something that is coming decades from now, but it’s a good idea to lay some groundwork now. We have this agricultural land, we want to grow food, so let’s see where it might take us down the road,” she said.


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