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Mississippi's Pecans Struggle Through '95
STARKVILLE -- Still reeling from the February 1994 ice storm, Mississippi's pecans struggled through drought conditions this summer and may end up yielding only about 40 percent of the state's crop potential.
Dr. Freddie Rasberry, extension horticulture specialist at Mississippi State University, said alternate bearing years are common in pecan production. Trees may yield 25 percent of their crop one year, 75 percent the next, then back down the next.
Trees in the Delta, where most of Mississippi's crop is located, may produce 10 percent this year. The Delta was hit hardest by the ice storm, which wiped out about 1,000 acres and seriously damaged the remaining trees.
"What crop we did produce this year will be low quality because of the drought," Rasberry said. "Mississippi normally produces about 7 million pounds of pecans; this year we may produce 1.5 million pounds. Next year, we should double or triple that amount if the weather cooperates."
Randolph Smith of Raymond said his 8,000 trees may produce between 200,000 to 225,000 pounds. Before the seven-week drought hit in August, his expectations had been for a 400,000 pound harvest.
"The drought reduced our crop by at least 100,000 pounds," Smith said. "When rains did arrive it was too late to help the nuts much. It's still a great crop compared to last year when we didn't have any pecans."
A severe drought in 1993 and an early frost drastically reduced the 1994 crop that was not damaged by the ice storm.
Smith, who is president of the Mississippi Pecan Growers Association, said when the drought hit, he suspended efforts to control insects. The result was increased damage from aphids and weevils.
Prices are averaging between $1.35 and $1.50 per pound, which is near normal. Rasberry said the major pecan producing states of Georgia and Alabama are producing about half a crop due to the drought.
Mississippi has between 12,000 and 14,000 acres of pecans.