Alabama Extension Research Associate: Pecan Producers Took a Good Kick in the Guts

Clint Thompson Alabama, Pecan, Top Posts

Hurricane Sally damaged crops and structures along Alabama’s Gulf Coast when it hit Sept. 16. Cassebaum Farms in Lillian in Baldwin County sustained damage to its pecan crop during Hurricane Sally.

What was potentially Alabama’s best pecan crop in years has been drastically reduced by two hurricanes.

Alabama Extension Research Associate Bryan Wilkins estimates after Hurricanes Sally (in mid-September) and Zeta (last week), the state’s crop has been reduced to about 25% or less for this year.

“This was the best crop we’ve had in years. We were probably looking at a heavy alternate bearing year next year, too. They’re going to be down for two years,” Wilkins said.

That’s not even counting the future losses that are a result of trees being uprooted from heavy winds.

“Zeta came right up through along the edge of Mobile County and into Washington County, down around Grand Bay…I had one guy tell me, ‘I’m going to put my shaker up because I sure don’t need it the rest of the year, they’re all on the ground,’” Wilkins said.

“The further up in the state you get, the further east you get, they haven’t lost as much crop wise, but the quality has gone down. Some of them couldn’t get in to harvest, they got beat up in the wind.”

Total Loss to Baldwin County

Hurricane Sally delivered a total loss to pecan producers in Baldwin County, the state’s top pecan-producing county.

 “Baldwin and Mobile are the two major areas (of production). We’ve got some areas coming on like back over in the Wiregrass that got hammered with Hurricane Opal back in 1995. They’re recovering over there but they still don’t have the trees that we had over here,” Wilkins said.

“It’s going to knock Baldwin County out of being the major producing county in this state, I think. We’re still trying to get counts right now.”

But the biggest concern remains the impact these storms will have on the state’s pecan industry long-term. It’s a “generational” impact.

“I’ve got one guy who lost, in one orchard, he lost 120 of them 90-year-old Stuarts. It’s generational. These guys that had those big trees, those 90-year-old trees or even 40-year-old trees, they’ll never see that yield again,” Wilkins said.

“Their grandkids might or their kids. I don’t know how many of them are going to replant. I had a couple of them tell me they’re going to tend to what they’ve got left, but they’re not going to replant just because, right now they’re in their 60s, and by the time (the pecans) come online, they’ll be in their 70s.

“They took a good kick in the guts. This one hurt.”