MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

December 11, 2012

Despite drought, harvest abundant

Plenty of pecans as growers bring crop to market

Even after one of the driest years on record, growers, harvesters and sellers report a bountiful year for pecans.

“It’s one of the best,” said Darrell Arnold, owner of Arnold Fruit Co. “Every third or fourth year, we get a bumper crop.”

Plenty of pecans mean lower prices. Arnold said pecans are running $3.50 a pound this year, compared to $4.99 a pound last year.  

Claude Gilliss of Oktaha said he and his crew harvested nearly 20,000 pounds of pecans this year. People passing Gilliss’ pecan business can see huge, white super sacks, each holding nearly a ton of pecans.

“Last year, there wasn’t even a crop,” said Gilliss, who has harvested pecans for 20 or 30 years.

Gilliss said many of the trees have had small pecans, “but you crack them open, and you see good fruit.”

He said the best trees “were in good deep soil in the creek bottoms.”

“The larger trees have a wide root system,” Gilliss said.

Michael Mayer, owner of Mayer Pecan Orchards of Muskogee, reported a good crop “considering the conditions.”

“If we had more rain in June, July and August, we’d see a better crop,” Mayer said. “Irrigation helped us hold the line. We’re thankful for what we got.”

The Oklahoma Climatological Survey ranks 2012 to date as Oklahoma’s seventh driest year since 1921. Oklahoma had 24.32 inches of rain so far this year, 69 percent of normal. Northeast Oklahoma has had its ninth driest year to date since 1921. The total rainfall in northeast Oklahoma this year has been 29.56 inches, 74 percent of normal.

“What little rainfall we did get came at the right times,” said McIntosh County agriculture agent Randy Burris. “Last year we didn’t seem to get enough rain.”

He said the area pecan crop has been “spotty in places.”

Low moisture could have resulted in fewer insects causing problems, Burris said. “Low moisture definitely contributed to lower disease level.”

Gilliss said his crews harvested pecans in several orchards in southwest Muskogee County and part of McIntosh County.

The crew was mostly made up of older people. Two individuals — one 81 and the other 72 — harvested pecans all by themselves, Gilliss said. The youngest person on the cleaning crew is 55, he said.

Mayer said native pecans are susceptible to having “off” years, “then the following year, they pick up again.”

“But the higher quality pecans are not as susceptible to up and down years,” he said.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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