Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Erratic shuck-split during this drought year


Caney, 15 Oct 2022
    Our local weatherman is predicting a strong cold front to drop temperatures into the low 20's by tomorrow morning. Once that happens, the 2022 pecan growing season will come to an abrupt end. Pecan leaves will freeze and drop from the tree. Nuts that have not shuck-split at this point will be frozen in the shuck to cause what is commonly called "stick-tights".

   Because this massive cold wave has been predicted for some time now, I made sure to scout my pecan grove for shuck-split last weekend. All of the photos presented in this post where taken on  Saturday, Oct. 15th. All of the cultivars pictured normally ripen ripen much earlier, in late September or very early October. This year's extended and deep drought has changed everything.


Kanza, 15 Oct. 2022
   I was very pleased to see Kanza split (photo at left) on most of my trees. However, I noted that most of the younger Kanza trees (< 6 inches DBH) were still tight in the shuck. It is likely that the younger trees had more difficultly in competing with the ground cover for water. And without adequate water, the shucks can't open.

    Since Kanza represents about one half of my total production, it looks like I'll have some nuts to sell this Fall even if they are much smaller than normal (drought decreased nut size).



Gardner, 15 Oct. 2022

       Unfortunately, some cultivars are were not even close to opening their shucks. Gardner (photo at right) usually ripens at the same time as Pawnee in Late September. This year Gardner nuts are smaller than normal and have adequate kernel fill. The shuck has separated from the shell but it has not split open. It will be interesting to see if the freeze will pop Gardner shucks open. If not, I'll be amassing a huge pile of stick-tights  for the burn pile.

Thayer, 15 Oct. 2022

    This year, several cultivars are demonstrating a wide variation in shuck development within a single nut cluster. The cluster of Thayer pictured at left illustrates this observation. Note that the largest nut in the cluster is split while the three smaller nuts are still tight in the shuck. After tomorrow's deep freeze, will I have just a single saleable nut to harvest from this cluster. By next Saturday, when I scout the orchard again, I'll get a better idea of crop losses due to this early hard freeze. 

    The 2022 growing season in SE Kansas has proven to be one for the record books, and not in a good way. I keep thinking back to 2007 when we suffered a trio of weather disasters. First we had a late spring freeze that killed emerging shoots followed by the second highest river flood on record in July. The third shoe dropped when our trees were covered by a limb-breaking ice storm in December. Now in 2022, after drought and early fall freeze, I keep thinking, "What's next".  Fortunately, pecan trees are resilient and will bounce back to produce great crops in future years.