AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – There are not as many acres of pecans in southeast Alabama as there are row crop acres, but Hurricane Michael’s impact on pecan orchards is just as profound.
Bryan Wilkins, a research associate at the Auburn University Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center, said that the storms had significant impacts on the pecan crop.
“There was significant tree loss in Houston County, and some tree loss in Henry County,” Wilkins said. “The trees that weren’t toppled over have massive limb breakage. Also, most to all of the leaves were stripped from the trees. This leaf loss will in turn severely hurt next year’s crop.”
Farmers expected a big harvest this year. Before the storm, all signs pointed to a good year for pecan producers.
Neil Kelly, an Alabama Extension commercial horticulture regional agent, said this may put some growers out of business.
“For growers who are near the middle or end of their career, they may choose not to replant,” Kelly said. “If you take into consideration that it would take years before a crop would ever be produced, they may consider it not worth the time and effort.”
The pecans were blown to the ground during the storms, but some should be able to be harvested.
“Producers should be able to harvest the nuts that had started to open. That is if people don’t destroy them in the cleanup process,” Wilkins said. “The nuts that had not yet started opening, however, will not open and are a loss. At this time, a rough estimate is we have lost about 100,000 pounds of nuts, but that could be higher.”
In 2017, Alabama harvested 8,400 certified acres of pecans, coming in at a value of over $3.5 million. Wilkins and Kelly note that there are many more acres of pecan orchards in the region, but only certified acres are a part of some USDA programs. The damage and pecan loss the orchards sustained this year will be a major economic impact on those producers.
“From all of the information that I can gather, I estimate that pecan loss in southeast Alabama will total somewhere between $300,000-$500,000 just in crop loss,” Wilkins said. “At this time, there is no way to determine the long-term impact due to tree loss. It is safe to say that by the time you figure the current replacement price of $20 per tree and the subsequent years of crop loss until the trees come into bearing, we are looking at losses in the tens of millions of dollars.”
Report Agriculture Losses
For farmers to have access to the most assistance, officials need data on projected yields, estimated losses and other impacts. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University will lead the data collection effort, documenting the complete effect Hurricane Michael had on Wiregrass area farmers. Print the agriculture damage work sheet here. Farmers and producers will also find an Ag Damage Assessment link at both the top and bottom of every page of the MichaelRecoveryInfo.com website.
Images are of pecan orchard damage at Good Hope Farm in Columbia, Alabama in Houston County.
Images by: Hope Bryan McCory