BATON ROUGE, La. —
The LSU AgCenter estimates Hurricane Isaac has cut Louisiana’s pecan harvest by 15 percent.
Charlie Graham, professor for fruit and nut crops, says that would bring the total to just over 11 million pounds — down from pre-storm estimates of 13 million to 13.5 million pounds.
It still would be up from last year’s 9 million pounds.
Graham says prices are likely to be similar to 2011 levels.
Last November, farm prices ran from $1.25 to $3.50 a pound, with most varieties starting above $2.
Graham said he checked with growers from all parts of the state during the first week of September. “As expected, the damage in the southeastern portion of the state was higher than other regions of Louisiana,” he said.
He said damage was minimal in northwest Louisiana. Overall loss estimates were about 10 to 20 percent, rising to 20 to 30 percent for orchards in the hurricane’s path. One grower said he lost half his crop, Graham said.
The good news is that only a few trees were blown over. “Most of the damage was limited to actual nuts being blown out of trees and numerous small limbs being broken in orchards,” Graham said.
He said shucks had begun splitting in early varieties such as Candy, Pawnee and Kanza.
Growers should be able to harvest these nuts blown down by the storm and use a knife to cut or scrape the shuck off of the nut. Graham advised wearing rubber gloves to do that to avoid stained hands. The stain can linger for weeks, he said.
Those nuts will need to be dried for two to three weeks before they can be bagged and stored at room temperature.
Mid- and late-season varieties such as Elliott, Desirable, Moreland and Sumner have just about completed nut filling, but the shuck is still firmly attached to the shell. These varieties will require specialized equipment such as a dehuller to grind the shucks from fallen nuts.
“Allowing the shuck to dry on the nut does not result in the shuck being more easily removed,” Graham said. “Nuts which are not well ventilated will generally rot or suffer significant kernel deterioration.”
Graham said nuts still on the tree may not open if they were severely battered and bruised. There’s no way to estimate the amount of that damage, he said. Such “sticktights” won’t usually be as good as nuts that mature normally, he said.