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How long will a pecan tree produce fruit? Nuts can be
retrieved from the branches by cracking the shell,
and from an immature tree by biting or breaking the shell.
In the case of a sweet orchard, it's best to leave
the nuts in the tree. Harvesting provides food for
insects and birds, benefits the soil, and helps keep
it clean and weed free.
Are there special handling requirements?
Nuts stored at the proper temperature can be stored
for years without rotting. However, nuts without
shells that are tightly wrapped in plastic or a container
filled with air pockets may need to be refrigerated.
Unshelled nuts are best stored in the refrigerator
for up to 1 month, although some people recommend
storing unshelled nuts for only 7 days. After 1 month,
they should be transferred to the freezer to prolong
storage for up to 6 months. Once frozen, nuts should
not be thawed.
Does an orchard produce different yields of
nuts based on the variety or the planting?
Planting for nut production is usually a specialty
of a certain type of orchard. Most orchards of commercially
important varieties include: sweet, black, and
butter. Typically, the yield from a tree is 15 to 25
lb. of nut product per year. In other words, each
tree produces between 75 and 150 lb. of nuts per year.
Nuts from sweet and black varieties are usually less
than 1 lb. each, while nuts from the butter variety
are most often over 1 lb. and can be as high as 3
lb. or more.
When is the best time to plant for nut production?
The following are the ideal temperatures for different
growing areas: the Coastal Plain: 78 to 86 degrees,
the Piedmont: 74 to 81 degrees, the North Carolina
Tablelands: 62 to 71 degrees. In general, these
are ideal for "cold-hardy" nut types. If you are
not sure what type of nuts your orchard will produce,
you should probably plant earlier in the season,
and preferably closer to the ground.
Which plants will be most difficult to manage?
Some plants need to be picked while they are still
green and contain moisture. Harvesting nuts from
some of these should be postponed until after the
plant has flowered, or the fruit has been allowed
to dry completely on the tree. Some should be picked
when the fruit is soft and easy to remove, as opposed
to one that has been allowed to grow to maturity.
Although different varieties of pecan may vary slightly
in their optimum ripeness, in general the trees that
bear first are the most mature and the ones that bear
second are younger and usually more tender. However,
the nut in some varieties grows faster and becomes
mature before the rest of the tree, and some varieties
are more prone to picking than others.
What equipment should be used for picking pecans?
The preferred picking machine is a climbing cherry
picker, which is also known as a peanut picker.
It picks the nuts from the limb with a small cage
that encircles the tree and the branches without
impacting the tree's health. If a rope and pulley
system is used to raise the fruit to the ground, you
should provide climbing supports for the fruit to
prevent falling. You can also use a vacuum system
to pick the fruit.
When should I harvest?
Harvest should be done when the nuts are "buttery"
and soft. They should have fallen from the tree.
This is usually the first or second week in October,
and the second or third week in October, depending
on the variety and location.
Can I pick the fruit and eat it?
Yes, you can eat it raw or dry it for winter storage.
It can be shelled and eaten with a spoon. Peanuts
and peanuts can be popped for a different flavor.
Why is a pecan shell wet?
A wet shell will absorb moisture from the air,
which causes the nuts to become soft and harden.
When nuts are harvested, the tree's trade-off of
tearing the branch with the hanging nuts is made
in favor of removing the hard shell with the fruit.
If a tree is infected with a botrytis fungus, it will
not have a proper trade-off. Therefore, if the tree
is infected with this disease, it is best to leave
the fruit on the branch and not harvest the nuts.
How do I pick pecans?
The best tool to use is a cherry picker. The tree
can be raised, which makes the job easier and
brings the fruit closer to the ground. The cherries
are removed from the tree with an effective pruner
and the empty cherries are replaced by cherries
from a higher tree. To avoid opening a wound on
the tree, the pruner should be opened before it
makes contact with the branch. It is best to keep
the pruner above the tree's canopy. Using this
method, the tree does not need to be caged. However,
you can cage the tree if you want. If you are not
sure of the height of the tree, you can stand
underneath and use a pulley system to raise the
fruit to the ground. You can use a vacuum system
to gather the nuts.
Where can I buy a cherry picker?
Pickers are available through professional companies
and through the home improvement and hardware
stores. Although pickers are expensive, they are
often cheaper than owning and maintaining your own
climbing cherry picker.
How should the tree be caged?
You should prune before the nuts have set,
and prune on a thinning rotation. Prune enough
to remove the crop and then leave the rest of the
tree to grow back, since pruning in this way will
grow a thicker, stronger tree. If you