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2018 Louisiana pecan crop coming up short

The projection of 15 million pounds has probably been reduced by 3 million to 4 million pounds.

Expectations for an excellent Louisiana 2017 pecan crop have been dashed by unfavorable weather, according to the LSU AgCenter pecan specialist.

“It’s not nearly as good as what we thought it was going to be,” said Charlie Graham, who is based at the LSU AgCenter Red River Research Station, Bossier City, La.

The projection of 15 million pounds has probably been reduced by 3 million to 4 million pounds as a result of several factors.

Some losses occurred from heavy rains washing away the initial crop, Graham said.

The biggest problems were caused by cloudy, rainy weather in August, which resulted in shucks dying and splitting open, a condition called shuck decline.

Some varieties suffered heavy losses due to water split. “Affected nuts have usually initiated shell hardening, so they have lost some elasticity, but haven’t hardened enough to with stand the increased pressure,” Graham said. “The sudden influx of water following a rainfall event increases the internal water pressure until it ruptures.”

The nuts were okay if they were further along in maturity when the rains came or if they were later in development, he said.

Lost half of some varieties

Graham said he lost half of some varieties, such as Caddo, Oconee and Schley.

The disease neofusicoccum was a problem in Pointe Coupee Parish, causing trees to defoliate, and the effects on the 2018 crop are uncertain. “I’ve talked to several growers who had that problem,” Graham said. “It is becoming a common problem in pecan orchards not utilizing a fungicide spray program.”

Pecan prices are good this year. “Prices have been very, very strong, and we can expect them to stay strong,” he said.

The leading pecan state, Georgia, was expected to have a 90 million- to 100 million-pound crop, but that was reduced by 30 percent because of damage from hurricanes.

The Georgia crop could be reduced even more because pecans that survived this year’s hurricane season could have been bruised from the winds.

“I don’t see anything that’s going to make the price drop, except lower kernel quality,” Graham said.

Walnut caterpillars

Graham said he’s not heard of any major problems from walnut caterpillars in north Louisiana.

LSU AgCenter agent Keith Hawkins in Beauregard Parish said he’s gotten numerous complaints from backyard growers with walnut caterpillars causing defoliation problems. And he said his own tree was damaged by the insect.

“It wasn’t just me. There also were trees affected in Calcasieu and Vernon parishes. I’ve gotten lots of complaints over several weeks,” Hawkins said.

He said he’s also heard of problems with the insect in Rapides Parish.

Commercial growers can afford the expensive equipment to spray for the pest, but the best option for a homeowner with a few trees is a granular product, Arena. It can be used to treat trees against future infestations, but the chemical doesn’t get rid of an existing problem, Hawkins said.

Arena 50 WDG

Graham said Arena 50 WDG insecticide is only labelled for use on non-bearing nut trees.

“Young pecan trees are more easily damaged by walnut caterpillar than large trees. So for protecting pecan trees less than 6 years old, it would be a good choice,” Graham said.

Honeybees should be considered before the chemical is used.

“It kills bees for up to 5 days after application, so it shouldn’t be used if you have flowering plants in bloom near your treated pecan trees or foraging bees in the area,” Graham said.

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