By Andy Sherrod, Orchard Manager
We have an unexpected development in the orchard these days. I’ve been growing pecans professionally for more than thirty years. Just when I think I’ve figured it all out – WHAM – something new happens, and I realize I don’t know as much as I thought. So I’m passing my new discovery on to you.
2015 is an “off” year, meaning the pecan crop is lighter than normal. That’s not just affecting us. Many growers across the pecan belt are experiencing the same thing. So during these “off” years, it’s critical that we protect every single nutlet and bring them to maturity.
During my work in the orchard, I noticed an unusual number of nutlets dropping from the trees in late June. This phenomenon is described as “June drop” by those in the pecan industry, but we haven’t had a June drop at Royalty Pecan Farm for perhaps a decade. I was perplexed. Why now? What’s changed?
Fortunately we had an unexpected visit from Bill Ree, an entomologist for Texas AgriLife Extension Service, who shed some light on our rare June drop. I saw him in the orchard one morning, just looking around. When he saw me pull up in my pickup, the first words out of his mouth were, “You’ve got shuckworm.”
No way! I thought to myself. Shuckworm is a late season pest, and July is MUCH too early to experience damage. I told him so. He picked up a fallen nutlet and carved on it a bit with his pocket knife. “There it is,” he said casually. I looked. Yep, he was right.
There’s no reliable method available to scout for shuckworm. The normal time to control this pest is mid-August during the half-shell hardening stage. Finding this in June is a surprise, but by now, it’s too late to repair any damage done.
Bill is doing what entomologists do: studying this bug and trying to learn why it showed up so early this season. We are providing him a plot of ground to work with, but right now I have nothing to tell you regarding a remedy. We’ll update you when we know more.
So there you go. That’s my new found knowledge, and I’ve passed it on … no solution, but I’ve passed it on, nevertheless. Working with Nature is like that. One never knows what unusual event is going to spring up next. That’s why I love this job.