Glenn County, Calif., pecan grower Keith Larrabee likes what he’s seeing in his orchards near Butte City, Calif. “The trees look very healthy,” he says. “Because of the rain and cold weather, things have been moving slowly, but flowers on some early trees and catkins on others are starting to push.”
This is about the normal time for buds to begin opening. Depending on the weather, he expects the final catkins to stop shedding pollen by about late May.
Established in 1918, Larrabee Farms also produces walnuts and rice. The pecan trees, which include Shoshone, Wichita and Pawnee, are in loam soils near the Sacramento River. The youngest trees are in their fifth leaf this year; the oldest are 10th leaf.
“I’m bullish on the future of the pecan industry, and I’m pretty optimistic about this new season,” Larrabee says. “The trees in our orchards are coming along as expected, and they’re producing good nuts in terms of size and meat yield. The market for nuts, including pecans, is strong. Pecans are one of the more expensive tree nuts, so that limits how high prices can go compared to the other tree nuts. At this point though, things look very promising for pecan growers.”
Larrabee normally begins running his solid set sprinklers in March or April. However, a dry winter prompted him to irrigate in January and February to insure adequate moisture to support his trees as they started budding out. Also, he wanted to make sure that the potash and micronutrient he put on his fields last fall reached the tree root systems. During the season, he’ll feed trees nitrogen, either UN 32 or some other nitrogen-based material, three or four times through the sprinklers.
Larrabee uses soil and water tests and annual leaf analysis in July to manage nutrients.
The only real pest concern is aphids, which expects to see once the weather starts warming. He’ll treat several times through the season, until harvest in late October or November, depending on the weather. He has a choice of two systemic pesticides that provide up to 90 days of control and several contact products that offer two to three weeks of control.