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Pecans not out of the woods yet

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Pecans are one Mississippi crop not taking a beating from excessive fall rains, but until the pecans are out of the orchard, the crop is not out of the woods.

Many pecan producers, such as Peeples Pecan Orchard in Starkville, are waiting for rains to let up enough for them to harvest in earnest. Mississippi pecan growers are anticipating a better than average crop of more than two million pounds.

Pecan growers are trying to harvest a better-than-average crop and take advantage of good early-season prices. Experts anticipate a more than two-million-pound pecan harvest in the state. The national crop is expected to be about 300 million pounds, up 100 million pounds from last year.

John Michael Riley, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the 2008 production was valued at $1.77 million. Mississippi produced 900,000 pounds of improved variety pecans and 600,000 pounds of native/seedling pecans.

“This year’s production is expected to be higher with two million pounds of improved pecans and 500,000 of native/seedling pecans,” Riley said.

David Ingram, an Extension plant pathologist, is heavily involved with the state’s pecan industry. He said Mississippi has about 30 commercial growers and from 2,300 to 2,500 acres of pecan orchards.

“The problem we’re having is not being able to harvest,” Ingram said. “As long as the pecans don’t fall on the ground and become water-logged and rotted or sprouted, they’re fine. But we have to have a few weeks of dry weather to be able to get the pecan crop in.”

Ingram said pecan trees started the season out well with a good nut set and development. Producers had more problems than usual with pecan scab disease, mostly because of rains that prevented them from applying fungicides on schedule.

Black aphids, yellow aphids, scorch mites and stink bugs impacted the crop, with stink bugs causing problems in the Delta as the pests left the soybean fields for pecan orchards.

Retail prices at the end of October were about $4 to $5 a pound, with wholesale prices about $2.50 a pound. Retail prices in 2008 were about $3.50, so current prices are good but expected to drop some as the bulk of the nation’s pecan crop hits the market.


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