Cooler temperatures mean its pecan harvesting time

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 24, 2011

For many people the arrival of cool temperatures signify the harvesting of pecans. This usually makes many people want to have a pecan tree in their yard!

The pecan tree is prevalent in Louisiana as a shade tree in the landscape and also as a source of nuts for home use. However, many plantings do not produce because of poor variety or poor site selection. Also, many people do not have the space that it requires to grow a pecan tree in their yard. When selecting a pecan variety for home planting, the most important factor to consider is disease tolerance or resistance. Homeowners normally do not have access to high-pressure spray equipment, a requirement for disease control on large trees.

The recommended varieties for home planting are listed and described below. These varieties are available from commercial nurseries and have proved to be the best ones to plant for Louisiana growing conditions. Cross-pollination improves the quality and quantity of nuts produced. Unless other pecan plantings are within a quarter-mile radius, two varieties with opposite blooming characteristics should be planted for cross-pollination. These pecan trees are referred to as early pollen shedding and late

pollen shedding types. The recommended varieties of late pollen shedding pecans are Candy, Elliot, Sumner and Melrose. The recommended varieties of early pollen shedding pecans are Houma, Oconee and Caddo.

The Candy produces medium-sized nuts (67 nuts/pound) with medium-thick shells and 46 percent kernels, which are attractive with high quality and good flavor. Trees are vigorous with dense, dark green foliage, ripen early and bear in four to five years. It has moderate scab resistance, and the tree has strong framework. It tends to bear in alternate years as trees grow older.

The Elliot produces round, medium-sized nuts (67 nuts/pound) with a 53 percent kernel. The shell is thin and has excellent cracking characteristics and a bright, well-flavored kernel. The Elliot pecan has excellent resistance to scab. It bears in six to eight years. It has been widely planted in south Louisiana. It is susceptible to bunch disease.

Sumner pecan trees produce medium-large attractive nuts (46 nuts/pound) of good quality and a 56 percent kernel. The kernel has a good light color. Trees bear at a relatively early age, five to six years. It is recommended for yard plantings because it has excellent scab resistance.

The Melrose pecan is a prolific producer of medium to large oblong nuts (54 nuts/pound) with excellent cracking qualities, high shelling percentage and bright, attractive kernels with 55 percent kernel.

It bears in six to eight years. It

has moderate resistance to scab

and shuck disease. It is susceptible to powdery mildew and bunch disease.

Houma, the first early pollen shedding variety of pecans, is a prolific producer of medium to large

nuts (55 nuts/pound). The bright attractive kernels have a 51 percent shelling percentage. It has good to moderate scab resistance. Trees are susceptible to downy spot and early fall freezes.

The Oconee, another early pollen shedder, is a good producer of large, thin-shelled oblong nuts

(48 nuts/pound) with excellent cracking qualities. The nuts have a shelling percentage of 54 percent kernels, which are very attractive. It has moderate scab resistance.

Another early pollen shedder, the Caddo, is a prolific producer of thin-shelled medium size nuts

(64 nuts/pound), which are shaped like footballs, with points at both ends. The nut is an excellent

cracker, which produces a shelling percentage of 56 percent bright attractive kernels. It has moderate scab resistance and good bunch disease resistance; however, it is susceptible to black aphids, powdery mildew and fungal leaf scorch.

Varieties that are highly susceptible to diseases should be avoided because of their need to be sprayed. These varieties include Schley, Wichita and Desirable.

Pecans should be harvested as soon as they fall from the tree. Pecan quality deteriorates rapidly if nuts remain on the ground for an extended period. The pecans should be dried to remove excess moisture. An additional reason to harvest pecans as soon as they fall is to reduce excessive loss to squirrels and other critters.

Drying usually can be accomplished by spreading the pecans in a shallow layer in a warm, dry area for approximately two weeks. Adding fans and heat can speed drying. Pecans with high moisture content (higher than 6 percent) do not store well. A method to determine if pecans are dry enough for storage is to shell a representative sample of the pecans and check the kernels. Bend the kernels until they break. If the kernels break with a sharp snap, they are usually dry enough for storage. Additional drying is needed if kernels do not break with a sharp snap.

Proper storage can enable individuals to enjoy their pecans until they have another good crop. Proper storage techniques must be used to maintain good nut quality. Poor storage conditions often leads to darkening of kernels and rancidity of the oils, thus destroying the natural flavor and aroma of the nuts. Pecans should be stored under refrigeration. Lowering storage temperatures can extend storage life. The average shelf life for pecans at several storage temperatures is: 70 degrees F – 6 months for shelled and 3- 4 months for unshelled; 45 degrees F – 9 months for shelled and 6 months for unshelled; and 32 degrees F – 18 months for shelled and 12 months for unshelled pecans. Unshelled pecans can be stored for a longer period than shelled nuts. The disadvantage of unshelled pecans is that they take up more space than shelled pecans and cannot be used immediately from storage.

If pecans are refrigerated or frozen, they should be placed in airtight containers. Pecan meats readily absorb odors from other foods, resulting in off-flavors. If pecans are to be stored at room temperature for an extended period, they should be held in containers that are adequately ventilated. Avoid storing improperly dried pecans in plastic bags.

When considering the planting of a pecan tree in your yard, remember that you must have plenty of space for the tree to grow, you must select the proper variety for your needs and the tree may require spraying with large spray equipment to control insects and diseases, which can be very costly. You may be best served by spending your money to purchase pecans from the local store or orchard. This information was taken from the LSU Ag Center Pub. 2074- “Selection and Care of Pecan varieties for Louisiana Yards.”

If you have any questions, please contact your local LSU Ag Center County Agent. You can contact David Pichon, County Agent-St. John Parish at 985-497-3261 or by email at