Comal Pecan Farm

From Deep In The Heart OF Texas

How We Do It

THAT’S HOW WE DO IT!  WE HOPE YOU ENJOY OUR PECANS

FROM DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                 Mark, Jackie, Oma (Julia), Luke Anthony, Justin and Andrea

Like most agricultural activities, pecan farming is a year-round effort requiring hard work to grow a high quality pecan.  Compared to growing crops such as corn or hay, pecan farming requires uniquely different equipment and timing during the year.  Here’s “How we do it” to produce tasty pecans, including  Pawnee, Cheyenne, Wichita and Kiowa varieties.  All are “soft shell”, easy to shell pecans.

Tree Trimming

Our work begins right after the Christmas holidays when we trim the dormant trees to shape them and provide room beneath the trees for the farm equipment we use.  We never have a shortage of pecan wood for BBQs!

 

 

 

 

 

Fertilizing

Pecans need lots of nitrogen fertilizer (N2) throughout the growing season, so we fertilize three times.  First in mid-April at when the leaves start growing (“budbreak”), a second time in late May-early June when the pecan nutlets are almost full size (“sized”), and a third time in mid July when the nuts are full size and filling with pecan nut meat (“filling”).  Pecans require almost twice as much fertilizer as does say a corn crop—almost 500 pounds of fertilizer per acre each year!

 

 

 

 

 

Irrigation

Pecans need lots of water (about twice what a corn crop requires), so we supplement natural rainfall with irrigation delivered to cover the entire orchard floor.  Pecans need 2 inches of water per week (yes, that’s 2 inches spread over the entire orchard area) to produce full, plump nuts.

Weed Control

With fertilizing and irrigation come the weeds.  As we all know, weeds do a good job of “competing with” the main crop and have to be controlled to minimize nutrient and water loss.  We use two methods:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Mechanical mowing between the tree rows                      Herbicide spray on the tree rows to control weeds where   

                                                                                                                                               the mower can’t reach.

Spraying

We spray the pecan trees for two important reasons: to feed the trees zinc nutrient and to control detrimental insects and fungus.  Pecans require zinc and it has to be “foliar applied”, that is sprayed on the leaves where the tree absorbs the zinc.  So we use a special orchard spray rig to apply the spray all the way up to the top leaves on the trees.

 

We use industry approved “Integrated Pest Management” techniques to spray pesticides and fungicides.  This means we closely monitor conditions in the orchard and spray only when necessary and then only with carefully formulated chemicals that target only the bad insects and leave the good insects.  For example, our pesticide sprays do not harm the Lady Bugs, who happily go about their job of controlling the bad insects even right after we spray.

 

 

 

Harvesting

Then the fun part.  If all goes well, nature cooperates, hail storms don’t hit and the summer droughts are moderate, we end the season with a good crop of pecans for everyone to enjoy.  But we need to get the nuts off the trees, cleaned and dried and sacked for in-shell sales.  This takes several steps and more specialized equipment.

Shaking the nuts off the tree

Depending on the variety, the nuts reach maturity and are ready to harvest beginning in late September on thru early November.  We start harvesting when the shucks start splitting open (“shucksplit”).  The entire orchard is mowed and cleared of sticks and trash.  Then, we “clamp” onto each tree with a tree shaker and shake the trees to drop the nuts to the orchard floor.

 

 

Picking up the nuts

We use a pecan harvester to pick the nuts up off the orchard floor, remove sticks and leaves and collect the nuts for transport to the barn.

Cleaning the nuts

Once at the barn, we move the pecans with elevators and use a pecan cleaner to remove the pecan shucks, remaining leaves and any small sticks.  The nuts cross over an inspection table (conveyor) on the pecan cleaner for a final inspection by the operator before dropping into a second elevator that deposits the pecans in the drying bins.

Drying the nuts

Because we harvest just at shucksplit, the pecans still have high moisture content (they are still “green”) and have to be dried before sale.  We use special drying bins that blow ambient air across the nuts for about 5-6 days to reduce the moisture content in the nuts to 4% - 5%.  After quality and moisture testing (called “grading” the pecans), the nuts are ready to be sacked and sold.

Sacking and Sales

The is the part we work all year for –getting our finished product – high quality, wonderful tasting, fresh in-shell pecans ready for everyone to enjoy.   Once the quality and moisture tests are complete, we sack, weigh and sell the pecans.  A large portion of our crop has been sold to wholesale buyers, but we are migrating to local sales so that our customers can enjoy the freshest pecans at good prices.

Planting

First we have to plant and establish the orchard.  This can involve several techniques including:

Planting native pecan root stock, nurturing the trees for a couple of years and then grafting the tops with an upgraded variety of choice

Planting trees that have already been grafted in a nursery.  This is the method we use.  The nursery digs up the trees with most of the roots and the “bare-rooted” trees are then kept moist until we plant the trees.  Planting involves digging a 14” hole over 3 feet deep, inserting the tree and then “watering in” the tree with plenty of top soil and water.  The water is critical to insure the soil packs down and no large air pockets remain.  Air pockets would allow the roots to dry out and then the tree would not survive.