Pecan growers across the southern US have been quietly planning for a market expansion but the market may be outpacing the slow growing pecan trees and growers ability to bring them into production fast enough.
While not all pecan trees grow at the same speed, a 7 to 10 year waiting period is expected with most varieties when planting new pecan orchards, and growers in the southeast and southwest have been planting new pecan orchards with the future in mind.
Typical orchard settings might have trees spaced at 45 feet by 45 feet with trees staggered from row to row in order to prevent overcrowding as the tree matures, but in many young orchards you might find trees spaced much tighter. Growers have been over planting orchards in the past few years in preparation to expand and move the excess trees to new ground as the trees mature.
Savvy growers in the southeast have been planting young orchards with plans to remove half or more of their trees to new ground at a later date. By “over planting” a young orchard growers drastically reduce cost of expansion in the future. With 5 – 10 years of growth on a tree, growers use a larger tree spade to move the extra tree’s to new ground and have a producing orchard with 5 – 10 year old trees in a matter of months depending on the size of the orchard and the capacity to spade trees to new dirt.
Another cost benefit is the care of the trees, with “over planting” the cost to care for the excess tree’s is absorbed into the cost of the original orchard and adds no additional cost of maintenance until the excess trees are moved to the new orchard site. Fertilizer, water and other insect and fungi maintenance cost little to none extra while trees are in the over planted orchard.
One other benefit is the increased harvest in the “over planted”, the excess trees, of course, increase the number of trees in the orchard, which in turn increases the number of pecans produced in that orchard, up to a certain point, until overcrowding begins to reduce production.
The biggest benefit is the hurdle of time, the 7 – 10 year wait period for commercial production can be a big hurdle, but is your caring for excess trees in an orchard that is already receiving regular inputs, then the burden becomes much less and the grower can more easily expand his or her operation to more pecan acreage.
Here in the southeast “over planting” orchards with the intention of spading trees to new ground is becoming a much more common practice, and just as you can easily find growers planting new trees, you can also find many of those same growers spading larger trees to new ground.