Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pecan harvest 2011

Sonja raking sticks off the orchard floor
    We have working hard to harvest this year's pecan crop before the rain and snow of winter rolls in. Since I usually end up shaking our native groves, I get a pretty good idea about the size of our crop by the sound of nuts hitting the top of the tractor cab. This year's crop will be slightly smaller than last year's harvest mostly because  the 2011 drought decreased average nut size.
    While shaking our trees, I started  thinking about area farmers that have spent most of harvest season complaining about a lack of nuts in their groves.  One guy even argued that the cold temperatures we had last February (-17 F) were the reason he didn't have a crop. But when confronted by the fact that the Experiment Field was producing nuts in 2011, he simply stated that a dome of warm temperatures protected the trees just east of Chetopa. Talk about hot air!

Darrell harvesting pecans
    The real reason growers don't see annual crops in their groves is because they cut corners when it comes to annual inputs. If you want consistent nut production, fertilizing the grove twice a year every year is a must. In 2011, we spent $90.58/acre on fertilizer. We applied 70 lbs. N and 60 lbs. K in early March and 46 lbs. N in October. Our native pecans will yield around 1000 lbs/acre; more than enough to cover the cost of ferilizer.
    Pesticides are another major input for pecan producers. This year we invested $42.63/acre in insecticides and fungicides. We sprayed for casebearer and scab in June, stinkbug and weevil in August, and weevil in September. This year's dry summer helped prevent the spread of pecan scab.  As a result, our fungicide applications were kept to a bare minimum and we were able to save a little money.
Cracked pecans
    It takes several years for pecan trees to respond (bear nuts) to fertilizer and pest control. It takes even longer to build up tree strength with years of consistent inputs to achieve reliable annual nut production.