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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Hugh Bollinger
/ Categories: Uncategorized

What's next? Pistachios, no less!

Recently, Riled Up posted my commentary about the impacts erratic weather was having on coffee bean production and beverage prices. I posed the  question, "What's next?"  to see  if other commodities might not experience similar availability or price fluctuations from climate related events. We didn’t need long to wait for an answer. Wired Science has just reported the devastating impact massive rains — recently deluging parts of Queensland and elsewhere in Australia — have had on another tree crop,  pistachios. Pistachios are native to the near east and central Asia but have become a worldwide specialty crop because of their tasty nuts. Who hasn’t enjoyed a bowl of dried pistachio nuts, some Turkish nougat with pistachio bits, or a bowl of green pistachio ice cream? [caption id="attachment_3734" align="aligncenter" width="276" caption="Pistachios"][/caption] The problem here is three-fold: one, virtually all of the pistachios grown in Australia were being harvested from a single genetic clone which produced a particularly tasty nut -- a narrow genetic base is always a concern with regards to diseases and infections; two, the pistachio tree is a member of the Anarcardiaceae, a family of plants that includes mangoes and cashews, so pathogens could potentially move between different species within the family, and three, fungi prefer moist environments which have been particularly abundant this year in many regions of Australia. These triple situations have created a "perfect storm" resulting in another Bad Brew for production of a special and expensive tree product. According to Wired Science: "... anthracnose, a fungal disease best known for infecting mangoes, (has) raced through the (pistachio) industry (in Australia), resulting in a harvest 50 percent smaller than expected — and half of that was inedible." Climate change is a process that will unfold with different results in different places -- sometimes wetter, sometimes hotter, sometimes totally weirder -- but its impacts will challenge even the most efficient and productive agricultural producers, because basic biology -- genetics, pathology, and productivity -- may not match the new environmental realities to produce an economically favorable result. I wonder how much a pistachio ice cream cone at the local gelato shop may soon cost? WHB
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