Good pecan crop expected

STARKVILLE – Although Mississippi pecan growers’ hopes for high yields were dashed by lack of rain, they still anticipate having a good crop to sell.
Pecans fill out between late August and the end of September. Timely rains are necessary for nutmeat to fully develop, but Mississippi did not get those rains this year, said David Ingram, plant pathologist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
“Some of the nuts may be lighter, and it will take more of these pecans to make a pound than it would if they were fully developed,” he said. “The lack of rain certainly hurt the fill-out.”
Mississippi has 2,500 acres of commercial pecan orchards and 30 growers. Most of the orchards are between 100 and 150 acres. The largest, Smith’s Orchards in Raymond, is 500 acres.
“We haven’t had a good rain in eight weeks,” said Randolph Smith, who leases his 500-acre orchard to Bass Pecan Co. “Some of the shucks have been slow to open because of the dry weather.”
Because of the drought’s effects, the U.S. Department of Agriculture now estimates a yield of 1.5 million pounds for the 2010 Mississippi pecan crop, which is the state’s average production. In 2009, the state produced 3 million pounds despite an unusually wet year.
“USDA is predicting we will have an average crop,” said Extension agricultural economist John Michael Riley. “Yields for native varieties and seedling pecans are estimated at 400,000 pounds, and those for improved varieties are predicted at 1.1 million pounds.”
The weight of the nutmeat could have an effect on prices.
Prices are based on the weight of nutmeat yield in relation to the weight of the whole, in-shell pecan.
“If you had a 50 percent yield of nutmeat, you might be looking at a wholesale price of $2.20 per pound, which translates into a retail price of $5 per pound and above,” Smith said.

Patti Drapala/MSU

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