Pecans in Oklahoma survive drought, good crop expected in the state

TULSA - You will likely not pay as much for pecans this year.

That's the word from Bob Knight, who harvests pecans in Creek County. Oklahoma's long term average is to harvest 15 to 20 million pounds of pecans each year. 

"The early estimates were for 30 million pounds but because of the drought, the actual amount will be lower," Knight said.

He expects native pecans to be smaller this year and noted that irrigated areas are doing very well, but the drought has severely hurt many areas.

It's not all bad, though.

"We've been blessed this year!" That's what Bill Ihle, with Pecan & Agricultural equipment, said when I asked him about this year's pecans. "Harvest is normally around the 1st of November, but this year it might be a little early."

He agreed the drought has stressed many trees this year.

Ihle estimated 10 percent of the pecan trees have lost half or more of their leaves and that many were lost. He explained the winter, followed by drought and heat, was too much for many pecan trees. He said an average pecan tree in an average crop will need about 150 gallons of water per day!

Despite the weather, he expects Oklahoma's pecan crop to be the biggest in four or five years.

Oklahoma State University professor and pecan guru Mike Smith said, "Orchards that irrigate will do very well this year."

Like Knight and Ihle, Smith expects the pecans to be smaller in size this year.

When I asked him about what weather does to the pecan trees he explained the process, "Trees can handle the heat, if they have enough water. Without enough water they begin to drop leaves. The next step is to start dropping nuts."

Oklahoma is the fourth leading producer of total pecan production in the nation, and second only to Texas in native pecan production.

"That's only because they have more land," Smith said.

So you will be able to find pecans for sale this fall and winter and the price will be down a bit from last year's prices, but they may be a little bit smaller.

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