SEGUIN, Texas (KXAN) — At his farm 38 Pecans in Seguin, Mark Walls nervously inspects the 2,700 trees on his 500 acres of land. A vast majority are pecans, and dozens didn’t make it.
After a summer of brutal heat and drought, he’s already found 59 mature trees that’ll need to be removed and another 38 trees younger than five years old that have died.
While he’s able to at least partially irrigate his trees, it doesn’t make up for the lack of rain and long stretches of triple-digit temperatures.
Walls talked with KXAN about the steps he’s taking to keep his trees alive and how the weather could impact pecan prices as the harvest season gets underway.
Tom Miller: When we’ve had the heat and the drought like we’ve had this summer, what do you worry about when it comes to growing pecans?
Mark Walls: Pecans need two things: they need to eat, and they need to stay protected. One of the things that we rely on the most is water, and managing the trees to produce the best quality product we can. In a drought year like this, it’s difficult, right? When we get good rains in the spring, and then we don’t have any rains during the summer, it can really cause a lot of issues.
Tom: With this heat and drought, what kind of impact are you seeing this have on your trees?
Mark: To fill out the pecan meat inside the shell, you have the water. Without the water, what you find is lower quality. So maybe one side of the pecan half will fill out, and the other side may not completely fill out. When we take the pecans with lower quality to market, we get a lower price. Just yesterday, we counted 59 mature trees in our orchard that we will have to take out, and then also 38 (younger) trees that are less than four years old, that unfortunately will have to be replaced. That’s a really big hit. I mean, it’s devastating.
Tom: Texas is the third largest producer of pecans in the U.S. Do you expect that the price of pecans is going to shoot up when we want to go buy them at the grocery store?
Mark: We will see in Texas for sure that the production is going to be significantly lower. We see that the prices will pretty much stay the same as they were last year, if not just a little bit higher.
Tom: Long term, do you worry about the sustainability of your crop in a warming Texas?
Mark: Pecan trees are pretty resilient. They’re a hickory, they’re a strong tree. As long as we can get them what they need, we can feed them and we can protect them from insect infestation, the trees are pretty resilient. But the one thing we cannot control is mother nature, we just can’t control it. This summer in particular it’s the heat, 104, 105, (106) degree days. That’s something we really can’t can’t get around, we just can’t avoid that. We don’t really know how to protect the trees from that particular type of heat. But we do have the ability to feed them properly and protect them and those are the things that we’re going to implement moving forward to ensure that summers like this are minimized at best.