U.S. pecan performance in 2023
The 2023 year brought weather challenges to many growers across the country, not only pecan growers. National Nut Grower reached out to some experts to see how certain regions fared towards the end of 2023. Below is what Lenny Wells of Georgia and John White of New Mexico reported.
“The 2023 Georgia pecan crop can certainly be considered to be an ‘off’ year crop. The question becomes, what does an off year in Georgia actually mean now? The last industry estimates I saw had Georgia for somewhere between 80-90 million lbs,” Lenny Wells, professor of Horticulture and Extension horticulture specialist for pecans at the University of Georgia, said. “We have losses this year from Hurricane Idalia which affected at least one-third to half of the crop in the southeastern part of the state and we had a freeze in March after budbreak that I think we are seeing some of the effects of now (late November).”
“As a result of the freeze, catkins bearing pollen were lost in many orchards and this likely led to lack of pollination in some cases and a higher percentage of self-pollination than we normally see, which can result in a high percentage of stick tights and nuts that don’t fill to the extent they normally would. Thus, many orchards in southwest Georgia are ending up with much less volume than expected,” Wells shared.
He also noted that middle Georgia was the “bright spot” in Georgia’s production, even though that region experienced some of the same issues as other parts of the state, it wasn’t to the same extent.
“Historically, crops that appear this light for Georgia, end up in the 40-60 million lb range; however, that off year number is going to likely be a little higher as a result of the extensive plantings of young trees in the state since 2010, much of which is now in production and making significant contributions to Georgia’s pecan volume,” Wells said. “For this reason, I don’t think anyone really has a handle at this point on what an ‘off’ year or for that matter, an ‘on’ year in Georgia really equates to in total production. We are at a point where we are having to re-calibrate our expectations of what that really looks like. The only thing we can say for sure, is that it has been an off year for Georgia pecan production.”
NEW MEXICO, ARIZONA, WEST TEXAS PECANS
“We’ve had a less than stellar year because of the heat and the lack of monsoon moisture. It started out as a good year and turned out to be kind of a mediocre year. The heat and the lack of monsoon rains were probably the two big factors that set us back. We were late getting started on harvest,” said John White, executive director of the Western Pecan Growers Association, Mesilla Park, New Mexico.
“The heat of the summer, the extreme heat that we have had, created some some problems with with trees. They had a weird harvest season because some of the shucks weren’t opening and were staying green because it was so mild. And we needed that hard frost, too. With the crazy weather we were having, the trees pretty much shut down when the temperature gets above about 95º F, 98º F,” he explained. “So they they quit metabolizing and are on life support, so to speak, keeping themselves going, shutting things down to try to prolong their life. We still seem to be getting pretty good poundage, but kernel percents are down a little on some fields. We ended up with pretty decent crop. So we got a mix mixed bag of of harvest.”
White also noted that for growers you kept irrigation going throughout the year up to harvest time had decent crops.
“So it’s kind of a mixed bag. In the kernel yield, we had some coming out 59%, almost 60%, which is very good. And then we’ve had others in the 55% range, which is dropping down a little and that might be due to a not complete fill due to lack of moisture. The weather was the number one factor this year, stopping us from having a spectacular year,” he said.
According to White, the industry expects New Mexico to harvest around 90 million pounds, down from earlier estimates exceeding 100 million pounds. Arizona is forecast at 35 million pounds with west Texas a little less than the typical 12 million pounds. California production is pegged to be 15 million to 20 million pounds.