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Dry late-season weather delays pecan harvest
RAYMOND, Miss. -- Despite timely rains throughout the summer, late-season drought is pushing back pecan harvest for most Mississippi producers.
"We thought we were going to be early with our harvest this year when our nuts set early this spring," said Max Draughn, owner of Bass Pecan Co. in Raymond and president of the Mississippi Pecan Growers Association. "We had rains every week up until Labor Day. Then we had no rain. We went into slow motion when it got dry."
Draughn began harvest on Oct. 12 for the Creek pecan variety, although green shucks were not at the ideal stage of 50 percent open. On average, harvest begins around Oct. 8 for Creek. Depending on variety and weather conditions, pecan harvest can begin anytime from late September to mid-October.
“You need rain and several nights of cool temperatures for the shucks to open enough to drop the pecans,” Draughn said. “If the harvest goes late and you get a freeze before the shucks open, those pecans will never come off. You just lose them. So, we went ahead and began harvest. Most of the shucks will come off when we run them through the cleaner.”
Draughn said Mississippi producers expect the best yield since 2003, when the crop produced about 4 million pounds of pecans.
Average yield for Mississippi producers is about 2 million pounds per year, said Eric Stafne, associate Extension and research professor with Mississippi State University.
“We could see somewhere between 3 million and 4 million pounds this year,” he said. “In central and north Mississippi, yield will likely be pretty good. But in south Mississippi, it will be hit and miss. Overall, it will definitely be better than last year, which was around 1 million pounds.”
Pecan scab was an issue for some growers who had a lot of rain in the spring and summer, but producers have had minimal insect and disease problems overall, Stafne said.
Draughn said he expects pecan prices to be good throughout the season despite the anticipated high yield.
“We had a smaller than average yield last year, and we don’t have any pecans in cold storage,” he said. “One-third of U.S.-produced pecans are exported to China by Nov. 15. Pecans are also in high demand by candy companies and shellers during this time, which is also putting pressure on the market.”
Early-season farm gate wholesale prices for good-quality, improved varieties of in-shell pecans are between $2.25 and $2.50 per pound. Farm gate wholesale prices for early-season seedling pecan are between $1 and $1.60 per pound.
Quality, shelled mammoth pecan halves will wholesale for between $8 and $9 per pound and retail for between $12 and $14 per pound, Draughn said.
For more information about where to purchase Mississippi-grown pecans, visit the Mississippi Pecan Growers Association web site at http://www.mspecans.org.