Pecan Harvest Late, Yields Good

Thursday, November 30, 2017
Local pecan grower Tim Holland pulls out Monday morning with a load bound for Indianola, Miss. Although the harvest season is running a bit late, yields have been good.
TD photo/Tim Blair

Although they weren't planted for their nuts until the late 1880s, pecan trees are native to much of this part of the United States. Locally, hundreds of pecan trees may be found in yards and dozens of small to medium orchards dot the landscape. So, it's only natural that most falls there would be an abundance of pecans. It's something local natives take for granted--in fact, some consider a nuisance.

The same cannot be said for most of the remainder of the country, and much of the world, as the pecans grown in the southeastern U.S are coveted for their rich meat and deep flavor.

Prior to the start of the 2017 regional pecan harvest, good yields were predicted by local grower Tim Holland. Recently he noted the prediction was accurate, although warm weather has delayed the effort somewhat.

“We did a light shake, and intend to go back and do a heavier one later,” he indicated Monday as he prepared to take a load of nuts for shipment. “They're coming off a little late this year, and not all of them were ready this first time around.”

Normally, Holland and his workers would be gathering the pecans from late October into early November, as cooler temperatures prompt the trees to complete the process and shed their fruit.

The process involves shaking the trees with an implement attached to a tractor, then gathering the nuts with a vacuum device. The pecans are then sorted and bagged for distribution.

Of the several thousand pounds of pecans sitting nearby in large bags he added, “these are going to Mississippi today. Then they could be off to anywhere—could be China or Japan, or they could end up being shipped right back here in candy.”

Holland's orchard, located on the southeast edge of Piggott, was planted by his father, Gene, back in the early 1960s and includes primarily Stuart pecans, along with other varieties including the locally-created Jack Ballards.

Following what was described as a dismal 2016 season, in which the local orchard produced literally no pecans, this year's bounty is welcome.

“We've had good results so far,” Holland added. “There have been some which have really tested high.”

Although the production and quality levels are high, a pest has caused some issues for the local grower as well.

“We had a pecan weevil that cost us a big part of one of our varieties,” he explained.

The pecan weevil (curcilio caryea) is a formidable late season pest for both pecan and hickory growers and requires a program of spraying and other measures.

Despite the impact of the weevil, Holland expects to ship several thousand more pounds of pecans in the days to come.

Although the Piggott area is home to a number of pecan groves, thanks primarily to the many generations of nurserymen who populated the area, Arkansas is not a major player in the industry.

Of the estimated 297 to 301 million pounds of pecans grown this year in the United States, only about 1.5 million pounds will come from Arkansas. The top state for production is Georgia at 85-87 million pounds, followed by New Mexico at 77 million pounds, Texas at 44 to 50 million and Arizona at 28 million pounds.

Regardless of where they're grown, pecan producers such as Tim Holland will insure the upcoming holiday season has plenty of pecan pies, pralines and other delectables. And, of course plenty of pecans just for munching-on.

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