I love a freshly hewn lawn. I say that to my wife every time I mow the grass at home. (I really do). I also love a manicured orchard with grass cut low and the vista under the canopy extending for thousands of feet in all directions. But now I’m disappointed all because of something called Regenerative Agriculture.
What’s that? Besides being the cause of my disappointment, it is quite possibly a better way to grow pecans. Regenerative Agriculture has been practiced in pastures and rangeland for a long time but not in pecan orchards. The regenerative component refers to a renewal (regeneration) of soil health, more fungi (beneficial) than bacteria (detrimental) and a stronger microorganism
population. A diversity of grasses and broadleaf plants results in less soil compaction and greater rainwater penetration. A perennial plant, like a pecan tree, growing on this type of soil benefits. Not only that, insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and spiders, thrive in such diversity resulting in better natural protection against damaging insects that feed on the pecan leaves and fruit.
Here at Royalty Pecan Farm, there is a small fifteen-acre block of trees in a remote part of the farm that we call The Back Country. There’s a reason we call it that. It’s largely forgotten due to the remote location. The other drawback is the heavy clay soil that by all rights shouldn’t produce good pecans, but it does. We don’t fertilize them; we don’t irrigate them. The broadleaf plants and grass are cut right before harvest. The only care they get from us is an occasional foliar zinc spray. For the longest time (35 years to be precise) I couldn’t see the
orchard for the trees. We were practicing Regenerative Agriculture back there and I didn’t even know it.
Now, with the increased cost of production, I’m forced to ask myself the question, “should we be practicing Regenerative Agriculture on the rest of our 500 acres?” I hate asking myself that question because it means no more manicured orchard with grass cut low and the vista under the canopy extending for thousands of feet in all directions; that freshly hewn lawn look. Well, if you come to the farm for one of our orchard tours and I show you trees with tall,
unkempt weeds that look like the place has been abandoned, you will know I’m giving Regenerative Agriculture a shot.
- Andy Sherrod