Louisiana pecan crop estimates for 2012 ranged from 13 million to 13.5 million pounds before Hurricane Isaac struck, according to industry experts.
But a statewide loss of 15 percent would reduce the forecast harvest from 13 million pounds to just over 11 million pounds, said Charlie Graham, LSU AgCenter professor for fruit and nut crops. Based on the forecast U.S. crop and the quantities still in cold storage, prices similar to 2011 can probably be expected this season.
“During the first week of September I contacted growers from all regions of Louisiana to access the damage to the 2012 pecan crop,” Graham said in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac. “As expected, the damage in the southeastern portion of the state was higher than other regions of Louisiana.”
Overall loss estimates have generally been 10 to 20 percent, with losses increasing for orchards in the direct path of Isaac increasing to 20 to 30 percent. One grower reported a 50 percent crop loss, although damage in northwest Louisiana was minimal.
“Structural tree damage would be considered light for a hurricane passing through the state, with only a few trees being blown over and an occasional large scaffold limb being broken. Most of the damage was limited to actual nuts being blown out of trees and numerous small limbs being broken in orchards.”
Shucksplit had already begun in early varieties such as Candy, Pawnee and Kanza in many locations. Growers should be able to harvest these nuts blown down by the storm and use a knife to cut or scrape the shuck off of the nut.
“The sap from the shucks will absorb into your skin and result in a stain lasting two to three weeks, so people should wear rubber gloves,” Graham said. The nuts will have a high moisture content and will need to be dried for two to three weeks before they can be bagged and stored at room temperature.
Mid- and late-season varieties such as Elliott, Desirable, Moreland and Sumner have just about completed nut filling, but the shuck is still firmly attached to the shell. These varieties will require specialized equipment such as a dehuller to grind the shuck off of the nut.
“Allowing the shuck to dry on the nut does not result in the shuck being more easily removed,” Graham said. “Nuts which are not well ventilated will generally rot or suffer significant kernel deterioration.”
Also, at this time it is not known what effect the storm stress will have on normal shuck opening on the remaining crop. Severely battered and bruised shucks may not open and will remain on the tree as “sticktights,” Graham said. “The quality will generally be inferior to nuts that mature normally.”