As pecan harvest gets underway across the pecan belt here in North America, growers are either readying their pecan harvesting equipment to begin harvest in the next few weeks or have already begun harvesting on the earliest varieties.
Because pecans are grown all the way across the southern US from north Florida to southern California, pecan harvest will begin in September and run all the way into January and February. Different pecan varieties along with the different growing regions spreads out the harvest keeping fresh harvest coming onto the market for months.
The industry boom over the past decade has caused some growing pains for the pecan industry, which is now playing catchup in various parts of the supply chain. The pecan industry has been experiencing significant growth over the last 10 plus years and growers have struggled to keep pace with demand for new varieties.
Gone are the days of the old outdated varieties that produce a mediocre crop with minimal yields. In today’s pecan industry and for the foreseeable future, pecan growers are replacing those old varieties with new, better yielding, in demand pecan varieties.
Today’s consumer is well educated, with the world at our fingertips and options available, pecan consumers, whether they know it or not, are demanding the best of the varieties with the best quality meats. Pecan growers have taken notice and are now shifting orchard varieties to better meet the demand of consumers. Older varieties like Stuarts and Desirables are making way for newer varieties that require less input with higher yielding nuts, such as Sumner and Kiowa. Pawnee, while not new, is still widely planted but falls into the category of a higher input nut.
Growers have been quick to respond to the influx of new demand for pecans but not fast enough. With the average grower taking nearly 10 years to bring a pecan orchard into commercial production the industry has not been able to respond fast enough to the demand for “America’s Native Nut”.
Yes, better growers can bring an orchard into production in 7-8 years but that is not the norm across the industry and even at 7-8 years the wait for increased pecan production is still steep.
Pecan nurserymen have also had to respond to the shifting tides in pecan production, as well as the rising tide. While we have had many new nurseries pop up to help fill the supply gap in pecan trees, the quality can be hit or miss in the early years for new nurseries.
It’s the experienced nurserymen that are having difficulty keeping up with orders. Demand for high quality pecan trees is growing and will not let up for the foreseeable future, and with good reason. The most expensive trees we have ever planted on our farm is a low quality nursery tree. When you lose 6 years of inputs, growth, and ultimately production on that land, you learn real fast that quality trees are worth their weight in gold, literally.
The real task for these nurserymen is not just keeping pace with the rising tide, but ultimately determining the right trees for the pecan consumer of the future. A task I do not envy.