Annual Pecan Conference Held

The annual Tri-State Pecan Conference was held in Natchez, Mississippi in mid June.  Growers from Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi kicked off the meeting with an orchard tour of The Company Farm pecan orchard located in Baskin, Louisiana.  This farm is a square mile or 640 acres, and is being managed by Tom Childress.  Childress talked about his management practices for the orchard, the current varieties that are in the orchard, and the future goal of starting a hedging regime.  He says that the number one benefit, for him, is that hedging helps him achieve a more effective spray program.  Childress says he is trying to choose and plant the right pecan varieties to control problems, such as scab, because you “can’t spray your way out of a problem, you have to plant your way out.”

Lunch was provided in the orchard and then the group headed back to Natchez for business meetings and an evening reception.  The second day consisted of educational seminars and the always much anticipated pecan guesstimate of the season from Ben Littlepage.  He estimated that the U.S. crop would total 283 million pounds.  Below is a state by state estimated prediction:

Alabama………………..19 million

Arizona………………….25 million

Arkansas………………… 1 million

California………………..  6 million

 Florida…………………….0.5 million

Georgia…………………80.0 million

Kansas……………..0.5 million

Louisiana…………………4 million

Mississippi…………….. 1 million

New Mexico…………..70 million

N. Carolina…………..0.5 million

Oklahoma…………….35 million

S. Carolina…………..0.5 million

Texas…………………. 40 million

Grades of Pecans and the Harvest

All about the pecan meat

The Pecan Harvest

Reposted from

The pecan nut grows in clusters of four on the tree. The edible nut is surrounded by a tough husk. When the nuts mature, the husk splits open to release the nuts which are encased in smooth, brown oblong shells.

The nuts are harvested by shaking the tree and gathering the fallen nuts from the ground. The unshelled nuts, ranging in size from 1 to 1-1/2 inches, are generally then washed, lightly sanded, and polished before commercial sale.

Some are dyed red as a sales tactic to give them eye appeal, although in today’s health-conscious society, dying of the shells has fallen out of favor.

Although not nearly as hard as the walnut shell, the pecan shell must be cracked with some forceful assistance, usually a nutcracker. The bare hand is generally not strong enough.

Inside the the protective shell, is a two-lobed seed with a smooth, very thin, brown edible skin. The halves are separated by a dark brown bark-like sheath which must be removed. Some slightly immature nutmeats may also have a bit of what looks like fine brown fuzz which should be removed by wiping or brushing as it lends a bitter flavor.

Pecan Sizes

Premium pecan halves are commercially-sold by size, much like shrimp. The larger the pecan half, the fewer there are in a pound. Here are the categories:

Pecan Sizes (halves per pound)

• Mammoth = 200-250 halves
• Junior mammoth = 251-300 halves
• Jumbo = 301-350 halves
• Extra-large = 351-450 halves
• Large = 451-550 halves
• Medium = 551-650 halves
• Topper = 651-750 halves
• Small topper = 751 and up

Pecan Grades

Pecans come in the following grades:

• Fancy – Golden color, no defects
• Choice – Darker than fancy, no defects
• Standard – Harvested green (fuzzy kernels), mottled color, shriveled ends, etc.
• Damaged – Broken or cracked kernels

If you need chopped nuts or pieces for a recipe, there is no need to spend the extra money to buy fancy or choice grades. Those nuts sold as chopped or pieces are just broken pieces of usually a mixture of fancy and choice grades. Standard grade is generally used for commercial applications.

Proper Harvesting and Storage of Pecans Improves Quality

This article is a reprint from the LSU Ag department website.

Louisiana is fortunate in that it has a good-tasting, healthful treat that literally falls out of trees. Pecans are found in many yards, pastures, fence rows and river bottoms. Louisiana is a major producer of native pecans, and its many commercial orchards produce improved pecan varieties. Many Louisianans have the opportunity to harvest pecans from their own trees.

Pecans should be harvested soon after they fall. A lot of things can happen to pecans on the ground. Loss from wet weather and hurricanes can be a serious problem. Wet pecans can deteriorate rapidly on the ground if the weather remains warm. Hurricanes and floods can wash pecans away. Excessive loss to squirrels and other critters often occurs in years with light crops.

Pecans often contain excessive moisture when they first fall. The nuts should be dried before they are put in storage. Drying can usually be accomplished by placing the pecans in a shallow layer in a warm, dry area for two weeks. Adding fans and heat can speed drying.

Pecans with high moisture content (more than 6 percent) do not store well. An easy method to determine if pecans are dry enough for storage is to shell a representative sample of the pecans. Bend the kernels until they break. If they break with a sharp snap, the pecans are usually dry enough for storage. If you don’t hear a sharp snap, dry the pecans some more.

Proper storage preserves nut quality until the next pecan crop is harvested. Poor storage often leads to darkening of kernels and rancidity of the oils, destroying the natural flavor and aroma of the nuts.

Store pecans under refrigeration. Lowering the temperature extends storage life, ranging from three months at 70 degrees F to eight years at zero degrees. Nuts can be thawed and refrozen without loss of quality.

Refrigerated or frozen pecans should be placed in airtight containers. Pecan kernels readily absorb odors from other foods, resulting in off flavors. Pecans stored at room temperature for an extended period should be held in containers that are adequately ventilated. Avoid storing in plastic bags pecans that have not been dried properly.

Pecans are usually stored shelled since they take up less space and can be conveniently used straight from the freezer. Unshelled pecans can be stored for a longer period than shelled nuts. The unbroken shell protects the kernel from bruising and offers protection against oxidation and rancidity of the kernel.

Natchitoches Pecans Hosts Fellow Pecan Growers at the 20l2 Tri-State Pecan Convention & Trade Show


Mark Swanson - 2012 Tri-State Pecan Convention & Trade Show

Mark Swanson
2012 Tri-State Pecan Convention & Trade Show

Family-run Natchitoches Pecans welcomes growers from Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and performs demo of its cutting-edge pecan-sorting processes.


Natchitoches Pecans, Inc. recently participated in the Tri-State Pecan Convention & Trade Show, an annual meeting for pecan growers from Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana—and this year, the family owned and operated company hosted part of the show at its own orchard.

Growers come to this yearly convention for recommendations about fertilization, information on new products, and advice about what to look out for in the coming year. One of its features this year was a demonstration at the Natchitoches Pecans orchard, which utilizes a new machine from Savage Equipment that sorts in-shell pecans by color, automatically picking out the bad ones.

“One of the biggest attractions of the Tri-State Pecan Show is that it gives you an opportunity to see a different operation, and to get a different perspective on how to problem-solve and work through the issues you encounter as a pecan grower,” said Natchitoches Pecans co-owner Julie Swanson. “The sorting machinery we’ve implemented at our orchard has really improved our efficiency, so we were thrilled to get a chance to show other growers how it works.”

One hundred and sixty growers—the majority of the trade show’s attendees—attended the demonstration, which was followed by a catered barbecue lunch served in Natchitoches Pecans’ orchard.

The two-day show concluded the next day with the release of 2012’s first Pecan Crop estimate. Based on Tri-State Grower member input, the projection for the year is 265 million pounds—a number considered encouraging by experts, in view of the drought experienced by growers in the region last year.

Swanson was cheerful about Natchitoches Pecans’ prospects for the year. “We’ve had good pollination, and we’re happy with how things are shaping up this season,” she said. “So far so good!”

Established in 1987, Natchitoches Pecans, Inc. is a family owned and operated pecan orchard. Mark Swanson sees to the everyday operations, his wife, Julie, takes care of Little Eva’s Pecan Store and the Internet and mail-order business, and their mothers, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews all help wherever needed. Natchitoches Pecans is proud to provide high-quality, gourmet Louisiana pecans for all of its customers. For more information, or to place an order online, visit

Pecan Trees, Squirrels & Crows

[Originally posted on September 22, 2011]

Not only does a pecan grower monitor disease and insect pests to protect his pecan crop year in and year out, he also has to monitor crows and squirrels.

Squirrels start damaging pecans as they are sizing up in late July and early August and throughout harvest. According to the University of Florida, it has been estimated that one tiny squirrel can easily consume 50 pounds of nuts per year. These pesky critters hoard and bury up to two pounds of pecans per day not caring if the nuts are green or immature. Squirrels also damage delicate twigs, limbs and foliage of the pecan trees. Some people utilize live traps to trap and relocate the squirrels, but we find that declaring “war” on squirrels during hunting season is the most effective. Squirrels make good GUMBO!

One can always tell when the pecans are ready to harvest by noticing when the crows show up. One crow can damage up to fifteen pounds of pecans per month. Crows are very intelligent birds and can be quite a challenge to control. We have hung dead crows from pecan trees to discourage their buddies from returning to that area. Those hanging crows are what we call “CROW ORNAMENTS“. We have also used propane propelled devises that go off periodically resembling the sound of a gun. This works for a short while until the crows get used to it.

Riding through the orchard one can see many squirrels running below the trees and many crows flying above the trees so it is time to get prepared for the “WAR“!