Off year may impact holiday pecan volume

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> By Linda Breazeale
> MSU Ag Communications
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> MISSISSIPPI STATE — Mississippians love holiday recipes with pecans, but an off year may make the nuts more expensive and harder to find.
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> Eric Stafne, associate Extension and research professor at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center, said the state’s pecan crop is forecast at 1 million pounds. The state produced 5 million pounds last year, and Mississippi’s average pecan harvest is 2-3 million pounds.
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> “Pecans typically are an alternate-bearing fruit, which means bumper crops are often followed the next year by much smaller harvests,” he said. “This year, some growers also had yield losses to pecan scab disease, but many commercial producers were able to minimize those losses. Small producers or homeowners are out of luck without the proper equipment to spray trees.”
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> Stafne said recent cultivars offer some resistance to certain diseases, but trees need to be at least 6 or 7 years old before they are commercially productive.
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> T.A. Duke of Duke Pecan Co. in West Point said early-season prices are similar to last year, but a smaller crop could trigger higher prices as the holidays approach. He said early market prices in Georgia had unshelled Stuart pecans at about $1.25 per pound.
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> “In addition to being a smaller crop, this year’s pecans are running about two weeks later than normal,” Duke said. “Trees generally start putting on leaves around the first of April, but last spring, it was closer to May. The relatively mild summer did not move their maturity along any faster, either.”
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> Good news for commercial producers is the expansion in exports. Duke said pecans have become an international crop with more being sold to China and Europe in recent years.
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> Stafne said one challenge in Mississippi is that many producers are newer growers and are still learning the ropes.
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> “Most questions I have gotten so far are from the growers who may not understand the lack of nuts this year,” he said.
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> This statewide concern is one reason Stafne will be leading a free, two-hour pecan workshop on Dec. 11 in Sunflower County. The program will cover general pecan production issues. It begins at 2 p.m. in the Sunflower County Extension Office, located at 112 Martin Luther King Drive South in Indianola.