Louisiana pecans may be smaller this year because of the drought, but the quality should be good.

The 2011 drought caused some trees to shed nuts in August. Yield will be affected statewide, but particularly in northwest Louisiana where the drought was more extreme.

“Nuts that stayed on the trees are smaller than they normally would be,” said Randy Sanderlin, LSU AgCenter pecan specialist. “Pecans need moisture, and it was dry all year long. But the nuts that stayed on the trees appear to be well filled with kernel. 

Sanderlin predicts 35,000 pounds of pecans will be harvested at the LSU AgCenter Pecan Research and Extension Station. “That’s a little less than 1,000 pounds per acre. The drought will cost us 5,000 pounds in yield.”

Sanderlin estimates a yield of 10 million pounds of pecans this year in Louisiana, which he calls a slightly less than average crop. “We usually average about 14 million to 15 million.”

In 2010, Louisiana harvested approximately 20 million pounds, although the yield was expected to be about 13 million pounds.

“Basically, every pecan was harvested – from backyard trees to orchards,” Sanderlin said.

He predicts that’s what will happen this year, too. “Every tree that has a pecan on it will get harvested. Everybody is looking for pecans. Prices are high because China is paying more than top dollar.”

Prices for the past two years have been double what they are typically. The price is usually $1 to $1.20 per pound and now is $3 per pound, mainly due to demand from China.

The Pecan Station is not conducting retail sales this year for the first time since 1973. “Pecans will be custom-harvested and sold wholesale rather than to the public as we have done for almost 40 years.”

Sanderlin said scab disease and insects were generally not a problem this year because of the drought.