UVALDE – Texas pecan growers expect to increase production this year, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist.
Dr. Larry Stein, AgriLife Extension horticulturist, Uvalde, said the Texas Pecan Growers Association estimated at its recent conference the state’s pecan crop would exceed 50 million pounds.
Stein said producers statewide face a variety of production hurdles, but so far 2017 looks to be an overall good year for pecans.
“The crop is good in spots and not so good in spots,” he said. “A lot of it is related to whether the producer had a big year last year and whether they did a good job taking care of the trees to produce a decent crop this year.”
Stein said pecan trees that produce large yields one year typically experience a dramatic drop in production the following year.
“Too many pecans, or over-cropping, can be a challenge,” he said. “Producers need to manage crop loads and shake the trees to thin out their pecans a little. It’s like having too many mouths to feed, so to speak. Reducing the crop load makes for better kernel quality and reduces the stress on limbs and the tree overall.”
Stein said much of the state’s pecan production is concentrated in West Texas, around Fort Stockton and El Paso. Irrigation has been a necessity due to hot, dry conditions.
“Trees need 1 inch of water per week up to budbreak,” he said. “As the kernel is forming the trees will need 2 inches of water per week to have good fill. You get some of that from rain when you get it, but otherwise you have to irrigate.”
Stein said producers should be preparing to make insecticide applications for hickory shuckworms, which burrow into the shuck and disrupt the flow of water and nutrients to the kernel. Pesticides should be applied as the half-shell is hardening, before the pest burrows into the nut to lay eggs.
Pecan weevils are also a common pest problem in pecans, Stein said. The weevils typically emerge from the soil around trees after August rains when pecan kernels enter the dough stage.
Weevils deposit eggs in the pecan and the larvae devour the pecan kernel, he said.
“We expect a good crop, but producers can minimize losses and take necessary steps to help the trees have a good year this year and prepare them for a good 2018,” he said.