Pecan growers across the southern US are monitoring trees and gearing up to begin constant maintenance of the leafs and soon the pecan nuts that will be forming on the trees. This year is expected to be an “off” year for production, however with growers continuing to increase maintenance and inputs in their orchard trees, the swings in production are becoming less noticeable.
Pecan tree buds have been swelling and have begun to open up forming the first leaves of the season. Pecan growers have begun to prepare equipment to begin the annual maintenance of the leaves. Pecan tree leaves are very important for crop development and must be kept clean, free from diseases and insects that can ultimately cause a disruption in the photosynthesis and pecan nut development of the trees.
Many people mistakenly think that pecans are merely harvested when ready and little else goes into crop development. This is a common mistake in the southeast where many home owners have a few trees on their property and will pick up the nuts that survive the year. This misconception over looks the year round maintenance that commercial growers put into their orchards to produce high quality pecan nuts ready for the ingredients and confectionery industry. Ingredient buyers, re-packers and the general public require high quality blemish free pecans and to achieve this requires growers’ year round orchard maintenance.
Currently in the southeast growers are monitoring young trees for an insect that bores into young vulnerable pecan trees and kills them if left unattended.
Now that buds are opening growers will spend much of their time caring for the trees monitoring leaf and soil analysis to determine the right amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for the trees to produce high quality nuts. While N, P, and K are very important, water will soon become the most important input for the orchard as nuts begin to form and the tree demands more water to fill the nuts.
Even with all this input growers will lose a large portion of their pecan nut crop during the summer months of June, July, and August as the trees shed pecan nuts in order to completely fill out the remaining crop. This is a natural occurrence of the trees and growers work to keep the tree as healthy and as stress free as possible.
Even though many of the pecans that will soon begin to form, will eventually be lost, this years crop is expected to be another good year. Growers have been working diligently to increase production of pecans due to a continued increase in demand. With pecans requiring between 7 and 10 years to enter commercial production, growers must be willing to invest for the long term when planting new orchards. This is the major reason demand has been outpacing production, growers must attempt to predict future demand along with the right type of tree to plant for future demand.
As this year’s crop begins to form we will monitor growth and crop load across the pecan belt to better predict this year’s pecan crop.