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Hurricanes hit state's pecans hard -- again
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Hurricanes continue to chip away at south Mississippi pecan trees, and the state's overall crop will be reduced again in 2005.
Commercial production has been reduced significantly in recent decades in south Mississippi, leaving the bulk of the industry in Delta and central Mississippi counties. Most of the remaining south Mississippi pecan trees are not managed for insects and diseases.
John Braswell is a horticulture specialist with Mississippi State University's Coastal Research and Extension Center in Poplarville.
"Hurricanes Frederic, Elena, Georges and now Katrina have all taken out many of our pecan trees. Every time a storm comes through, we lose our crop that year and some more trees," Braswell said. "It's been years since any new commercial tress were established down south."
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita left their mark on every pecan tree in Mississippi this year. Braswell said Katrina probably destroyed all of the nuts and 30 percent to 40 percent of the pecan trees in the southern Mississippi counties.
David Ingram, plant pathologist at MSU's Central Research and Extension Center in Raymond, said probably every pecan tree lost limbs during Katrina.
"On one farm in commercial production, about 100 trees either went down or will have to be completely removed because of the extensive damage," Ingram said. "Surprisingly, there was still a decent crop left on the trees in this area. Even though we may have lost 25 percent of the crop, the trees had a pretty good load before the storm so we may still have an average yield around here."
Ann Ruscoe, Coahoma County Extension director, said while trees went into the summer with higher fruit loads, more than 50 percent of the north Delta crop was lost, mostly during Rita's severe winds.
"Some orchards, either because of variety or young age, were not effected as much," said Ruscoe, who also serves as secretary of the Mississippi Pecan Growers. "The next concern will be the impact of defoliation from the storms on next year's crop."
Ingram said when trees lose leaves, nuts and limbs, they sprout new growth going into the fall. Those leaves do not have time to age properly before cold winter weather arrives.
"Trunks and limbs are full of sap and they won't go into dormancy properly. A severe winter can cause injuries the following spring," Ingram said. "We won't know the extent of the damage until May or June, but we likely will have reduced nut production next year."