Although his pecan crop is about two to three weeks behind normal this year, the trees in his Tehama County orchard are doing well, says Garry Vance, Corning, Calif.
“They’ve grown more foliage than normal and, although the nuts will probably be small, the crop looks really heavy — the trees seem to be very happy.”
He’s not the only pecan producer who’s pleased with crop conditions this year. “Most growers in the state are pretty optimistic at this point,” says Vance, who is president of the California Pecan Growers Association. “The only concern is the late crop, which can make harvesting very difficult because of the greater chance of rain.”
Usually, harvesting of early varieties, like Pawnee, starts in early October, but it will probably be late October this year, he notes. For Wichita and other later varieties, the normal late October harvest start likely will be delayed until the early part of November.
Last year, most California growers got about $1.65 to $1.75 per in-shell pound for 56 percent or better pecans, he notes. “We’re hoping for an increase in price this year, because the supply is definitely short and demand remains strong.”
His G and G Farms’ 110-acre pecan orchard, which he bought in 1996, consists of 32-year-old Wichita and Cheyenne trees irrigated with micro sprinklers. They were planted at a high density of 76 trees per acre on 22-foot wide rows with trees spaced 26 feet apart within the rows.
To better manage the crop load, he began hedging trees annually seven years ago. He keeps them at a height of 26 feet and no wider than 5 feet out from the trunks. The idea is to cut the trees back to a size small enough to handle the crop.
“Even though a pecan orchard can produce as many as 10,000 pounds per acre, it can’t sustain that much production,” Vance explains.
“California growers used to shoot for a production of 2,000 to 2,200 pounds per acre in an on-year. But hedging has increased on-year yields in the state to about 3,000 to 4000 pounds per acre, followed by a 2,000-pound crop in the off-year.”
His fertilization program is similar to that of other California pecan growers. He applies about 250 pounds per acre of nitrogen as UAN 32 in five applications a season through micro-sprinklers. To meet phosphorus needs, he applies 300 pounds of 18-46-0 in the spring and bands 400 pounds per acre of potassium sulfate once in the spring and again in the fall. He also treats trees with three foliar applications of zinc between early May and late June, applying 1/2-pound of zinc per acre each time.
Over the last four years, Vance says, his orchard has produced a top yield of 4,100 pounds per acre and an average sustained yield of 3,000 pounds per acre.