Mississippi’s pecan growers had to overcome a lot in recent years, but 2007 looks like the year their hard work and patience might pay off.
The state’s yield is expected to be 3 million pounds, double last year’s pecan harvest. Mississippi’s average crop is about 1.5 million pounds.
John Braswell, horticulture specialist with Mississippi State University’s Coastal Research and Extension Center in Poplarville, Miss., said Hurricane Katrina ruined the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
“Pecan is a brittle wood and very vulnerable to high winds, so the trees took a pretty big hit from Katrina,” Braswell said. “After losing a lot of limbs from the hurricane, trees releafed late in 2005 and were not able to produce many pecans the next year.”
Braswell said Katrina drastically reduced the number of pecan trees in south Mississippi, and ice storms have reduced pecans in the north Delta in the last 20 years.
David Ingram, plant pathologist at MSU’s Central Research and Extension Center in Raymond, Miss., said droughts also have challenged pecan production in recent years.
“Surprisingly, we have a very good crop this year in spite of a second dry summer. Trees seem to have gotten enough timely rain to fill the nuts,” he said. “Just two years out from the hurricane, some limbs broke under the heavy fruitload. The quality of the nuts looks good, and the health of the trees is good, too.”
Ingram said dry conditions helped limit the development of scab, a fungal disease. Most of the pest challenges were from the two most problematic insects: black aphids and pecan scorch mites. These are problems in dry years and are difficult to control.
“It doesn’t take many black aphids to cause leaves to have yellow blotches and then to fall off the tree,” he said. “Luckily, we should not see much yield loss. Even homeowners who did not apply pesticides should have good crops. This should be one of the best crops we’ve had in the last five to seven years,” he said.
Ingram said producers should receive good prices for pecans this fall through Thanksgiving.