Evaluating the 2020 pecan crop
The goal of a pecan farmer is to produce quality pecans which have well-filled kernels. Through discussions with my father, classroom training through the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension office, and countless phone calls and emails with area pecan growers, I have learned that to estimate the crop on trees for regulating crop load is the most difficult task for even the most seasoned pecan farmer. Experience is still the best teacher, and with a few years of pecan orchard management under my belt, I realize that the learning curve is quite steep.
What has been a most pleasant surprise to me is that other pecan growers are readily available resources of information, guidance, and advice. They are happy to share their knowledge and experience with other growers because everyone knows full well that the biggest competitor and challenger out there is Mother Nature. Case in point: A grower in Junction called me recently to ask, “How is your crop looking?” I admitted that I had not been up in the cherry picker to closely evaluate the crop yet, and then further admitted I had to reread that part of the Pecan Short Course manual to refresh my memory on how to accomplish this task. He continued to instruct me on how he evaluates the crop load of his orchards.
Since that conversation, I made a point to get into the cherry picker and study the number of shoots or terminals with nutlets on each tree. Based upon this initial review, it looks like we are going to have a very good crop for some varieties of pecan and good crop for other varieties. We’ve had some excellent and well-timed rains in May which will influence the size of the pecans. Whether the pecans fill out completely will be determined by the amount of rain/irrigated water the orchards receive in July and August.
What I discovered as well is an extremely high number of beneficial insects in the trees, and this bodes well for the overall health of the orchard. It is as if the assassin bugs are standing guard at each nutlet and posing as Dirty Harry with their warning, “Go ahead. Make my day.”
Here is another interesting photo which captures the assassin bug in action. Now that is one mean dude! My son noticed this assassin bug on one of our irrigation micro-sprinkler heads as we were doing our rounds to collect eggs from the four chicken coops on the farm.
To be fair, there are other soldiers in my army against the predatory insects and animals. The chickens, through their constant work scratching the ground, have eliminated many destructive pupae/larvae overwintering in the ground along with any insect that moves on the orchard floor. Our dogs (including the one in the tree) also have done their fair share of predator control by alerting us to the varmints that love eating our pecans.
Stay tuned for more photos and stories of our pecan orchard. Until then, stay safe and healthy.