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Agriculture Today

Texas pecan crop expected to be about 65 million pounds

Texas pecan crop expected to be about 65 million pounds
DR. MONTE NESBITT/Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Because of a number of weather factors, including a drought early in the growing season, many pecan trees set an overabundance of nuts this year.

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Robert Burns
October 17, 2012
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COLLEGE STATION -- Despite the drought, the state’s pecan harvest will be exceptionally large this year, a predicted 65 million pounds, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

On an average year, the Texas crop is between 50 million and 55 million pounds, according to Dr. Larry Stein, AgriLife Extension horticulture specialist in Uvalde who works mainly with pecans, fruits, grapes, and vegetable crops.

“The crop is good, and they seem to be well-filled,” he said. “The quality seems pretty good. The nut size may be a little bit small, but that’s okay.”

The high yields and big crop are both good and bad news for growers, Stein noted.

The good news is this year is a great improvement over the 2011 crop, which, because of the drought, was less than half the average, driving up prices to the consumer, he said. On the negative side, the big crop may drive down wholesale prices for growers, and the large nut set is resulting in a lot of limb breakage throughout the state.

“We’re probably seeing more limbs breaking (in orchards) than not,” he said. “Most years, you have enough insect pressure that will take some of the nutlets off before they set. In 2012, the crop was large enough, and the insect pressure was so dispersed, that a lot of trees that would not ordinarily set that many pecans, set an overabundance. As the nuts fill, the combined weight of the leaves and nuts is breaking limbs.”

Monte Nesbitt, AgriLife Extension horticulture specialist, College Station, said the excess fruit production was a direct result of the drought continuing into the early growing season.

When stressed, a pecan tree will form more fruit in an attempt to make sure the species is preserved, Nesbitt said. The late-season rains also contributed to the large survival rate of the nutlets and resulting limb breakage.

“Commercially, what we’ll do is trunk-shake in mid- to late July and take some of the nuts off,” Stein said. “What a homeowner should have done is to take a stick out there and knock some of the nuts off.”

But untrained, non-commercial growers typically think more nuts are better, Stein said, and leave all the nutlets to set to the tree’s detriment.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported the region had cooler temperatures early in the week, followed by a warming trend. Recent rains kicked off grass growth and aided wheat and oats. Rain was still needed in some areas. Overall, pastures looked good.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported fieldwork for the 2013 crop season began where conditions were dry enough. The only cotton left unharvested was in the northern part of the region. Hay was abundant, with many producers looking for different methods to market their excess stocks. Shorter days and cooler nights slowed Bermuda grass growth, but bluestem and other bunch grasses were growing well. Farmers expected to take another hay cutting before the first frost. Where there was not adequate rain, livestock producers continued to provide supplemental feed. Cattle remained in good condition, with herd numbers steady. The pecan harvest was expected to begin in a few weeks, with phenomenal yields anticipated. Many of the early season varieties were nearly ready, while later-season varieties and natives are a month to six weeks away from harvest.

Robert Burns has nearly 30 years’ experience writing about agriculture and agricultural-related research. He writes about Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service activities at the Overton Center and centers in Stephenville and Temple.

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