By Andy Sherrod, Orchard Manager
From someone writing a Texas farm blog in August, you might expect an opening line like, “it sure has been hot so make sure your plants get plenty of water.”
But I’m not going to start out that way. It’s boring and everybody knows to water plants in the heat of summer. Instead, I’m going to open my August blog with, “it sure has been hot so make sure to avoid Freon poisoning.”
So what in the name of all that’s cool is Freon poisoning?
Well, most air conditioning systems use Freon as the coolant. For those of us who make our living outdoors, the way to beat the heat is to stay away from the stuff. Avoiding the AC really does help acclimate the body to the gradually increasing daytime temperatures if you have to be out in it all day long. Vacillating between air conditioning and the outdoor heat is a killer, so to speak. Either stay in or stay out. That’s my advice.
There’s another critically important component to staying cool when working outdoors: drink lots of water.
I prefer to drink really cold water, about a gallon of it every day. I’ve found that it’s best to sip cold water throughout the day instead of waiting for my body to shout “drink, you fool, I’m dying …” The steady stream of cold water keeps my core body temperature low and allows me to comfortably endure the 100 degree heat outside.
As I thought about my own needs, I realized that the 15,000 pecan trees here at Royalty Pecan Farms endure the summer heat in the very same way. They stay out of the air conditioning and they drink lots of water. The water comes from our irrigation system.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: since pecan trees don’t wilt, the way I know the trees are getting ample water is to feel the leaves.
A properly hydrated tree has cool leaves that you can actually detect with your hands.
I loosely grip a bunch of leaves with both hands. If the trees are getting sufficient water the leaves will be slightly cool. If the trees are suffering from drought stress the leaves will be warm.
There is a term we use in the pecan business called “August Drop.” It refers to the shedding of pecans during the month of August as if it was perfectly normal. Now it may be perfectly normal for you (or me) to walk out into the August heat from an air-conditioned building and think, “I’m going to Drop from this August heat,” but it doesn’t have to be that way for pecan trees.
Properly hydrated trees that receive two inches of water every week stand a better chance of avoiding August Drop.
So I didn’t start my August blog with, “it sure has been hot so make sure your plants get plenty of water,” but I will end it that way.