Multiple years of serious drought has taken a toll on pecan trees across the Southwest, but in spite of dry conditions, most growers in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico are reporting fair to good nut conditions as early harvest gets underway.

Nationwide, pecan production is expected to be down this year with the exception of the Georgia crop, but thanks to heavy late summer/early fall rains across the Southwest, crop conditions and outlook have improved slightly, especially in New Mexico where it appears to be an on-year in pecan’s alternate bearing cycle for most growers.

Irrigation allotments from both the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers have been extremely limited or non-existent, but application of ground water irrigation appears to have been sufficient to sustain trees until an active monsoon season hit in mid July. Pest pressure from aphids and pecan nut casebearers has been light to moderate most of the year in high-production areas.

 

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In Eddy County, Carlsbad Irrigation District (CID) officials say the rains came at the right time for pecan and cotton growers. In fact, rains were so productive that CID officials authorized limited irrigation releases late in the growing season, which further helped pecan growers and improved nut conditions.

In Texas, Extension specialists are predicting higher consumer prices for the smaller crop, an off-year in the production cycle. Extreme drought conditions stressed trees until the rains came in late summer. Those rains, many of them heavy, saturating events, helped to improve nut conditions, though many trees had already been lost.

In spite of a light nut load reported by most commercial growers across the state, the quality of Texas pecans will be high, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist.

“They (consumers) should expect to pay a little more, though, as yields are light,” said Dr. Larry Stein, AgriLife Extension horticulturist in Uvalde. “There are pecans – it’s not like it’s a total washout, and in certain places there are more pecans than we expected.”

Stein said Dry weather cut back yields this year, but not to the degree it did in 2011, and irrigated pecan growers are expecting adequate, though not high, yields. Drier weather means lower disease problems, so the quality should be very good, particularly on irrigated orchards.

“Where the crop is really short, you’ve got to realize the varmints are working them hard,” Stein added. “The crows, squirrels, raccoons, turkey and deer – you name it – are all getting their share right now. And as they say, ‘a short crop always gets shorter and big crop will always get bigger.’”