Drought causes huge pecan crop

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Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Robert BurnsShuck opening, more commonly called “shuck-split,” came early in 2012. Even though the drought in most of Texas was quite severe this summer, reports are that the pecan harvest could be one of the largest in recent years. The prediction is 65 million pounds compared to an average pecan harvest of between 50 million and 55 million pounds, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialists.

Larry Stein, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension horticulture specialist in Uvalde, Texas, works mainly with pecans, fruits, grapes and vegetable crops. He said, “The crop is good, and they seem to be well-filled. The quality seems pretty good. The nut size may be a little bit small, but that’s okay.”

Monte Nesbitt, AgriLife Extension horticulture specialist, College Station, Texas, 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 also limb breakage.

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 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 tree limb breakage throughout the state.

“We’re probably seeing more limbs breaking (in orchards) than not,” Stein 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 over abundance. As the nuts fill, the combined weight of the leaves and nuts is breaking limbs.”

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