Central Oklahoma and North Texas farmers and ranchers looking for a new enterprise might consider pecans — if they're patient and willing to invest the management and money necessary to produce a profitable crop.

“We've seen a lot of interest and a lot of new pecan plantings going in,” says Charles Rohla, pecan specialist at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma.

Rohla and James Locke, soils and crop specialist, say pecans provide promising profit potential for the right producers with the right conditions.

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“Pecans offer more profit potential than a typical row crop enterprise, a cow/calf farm or a stocker operation, even at peak cycles,” Locke says.

But it takes good yields to make good money. “We set a target of 2,000 pounds per acre,” Rohla says. With a $2 per pound retail market, opportunities are pretty good. “A few do that well,” he says. “I know one producer who says he's made a profit of $3800 per acre on pecans. But that includes his retail center.”


They say others have compared pecans to soybeans, even with the increased price for soybeans. “They still come out ahead with pecans,” Rohla says. “But it's a long-term investment. It may take 10 years before a grower gets to half production. It's 12 years to full production.”

“And the grower will spend from $4,000 to $6,000 per acre, including an irrigation system, in the interim,” Locke says. “Some land owners are putting in dryland pecans and production costs are considerably less, but so is production, 1,000 to 1,200 pounds per acre, with the right varieties. They also can add four to five years until full production.”

They say dryland production also comes with “alternate bearing” problems. A good year often is followed by a poor one as the trees recover. “With irrigation, improved varieties, and other management practices, we can lessen the effect of alternate bearing,” Rohla says.

Gearing up to grow pecans on a commercial scale is not something landowners should take on without considerable preparation. Rohla and Locke say growers should consider three key factors before planting the first tree.