Growers worldwide go nuts for annual pecan short course

  • Writer: Kathleen Phillips, 979-845-2872, ka-phillips@tamu.edu
  • Contact: Dr. Larry Stein, 830-278-9151, larry.stein@tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION — Things change. Seasons, people, trees. Yes, even trees.

“My father-in-law bought a 200-acre farm when he got out of the Air Force, and it had about 40 acres of pecan trees,” recalls Julian Amaya, who manages the family’s business, Martin’s Pecanville, near Bullard. “He took care of them for 35 years or so, but things have changed since then.”

With aging trees and lagging production, Amaya knew he needed to be schooled on the latest techniques for growing pecans.

“About four years ago I took the pecan short course offered by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service,” he said. “And things that they showed me, I applied. I have planted 80 trees since then, so I now have  2- 3- and 4-year-old trees and I have lost only one.”

Julian Amaya, who manages Martin's Pecanville near Bullard, Texas, attended the 2016 Pecan Short Course. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Kathleen Phillips)

Julian Amaya, who manages Martin’s Pecanville near Bullard, Texas, attended the 2016 Pecan Short Course. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Kathleen Phillips)

Amaya was among the more than 85 people who attended the 2016 short course from locations ranging from Texas to South Africa, Australia, Italy and Mexico, AgriLife Extension officials said.

“The pecan short course has been going on for more than 30 years and originally it was for AgriLife Extension county agents,” said Dr. Larry Stein, AgriLife Extension horticulturist in Uvalde, who taught portions of the course. “We opened it up to growers and now they come from all over the world. It’s a four-day course in which we go over everything from A to Z on pecans — how to plant trees, how to train trees, what varieties to select, what equipment to use, how to fertilize and how to prune.”

After planting a pecan tree, participants at the 2016 Pecan Short Course near College Station, Texas, were shown how to water the tree.  (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Kathleen Phillips)

After planting a pecan tree, participants at the 2016 Pecan Short Course near College Station, Texas, were shown how to water the tree. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Kathleen Phillips)

Stein and several other horticulturists at this year’s course focused on hands-on activity in the AgriLife Extension orchard near College Station.

“In this orchard, parts of it were planted in the 1960s,” Stein said. “So a lot of it had gotten crowded. Now we’re taking out old varieties and incorporating some of the new varieties. We’re going to see how they perform, and hopefully we’re going to be able to make better recommendations to the growers in the future.”

It’s timely, Stein noted, because the pecan industry in Texas is on the upswing.

Dr. Larry Stein was one of the presenters at the 2016 Pecan Short Course, held at the orchard on the Texas A&M University orchard near College Station, Texas.  (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Kathleen Phillips)

Dr. Larry Stein was one of the presenters at the 2016 Pecan Short Course, held at the orchard on the Texas A&M University orchard near College Station, Texas. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Kathleen Phillips)

“We’re actually growing,” he said. “The price of pecans has come up in the last few years, and so there is a great interest in pecans, not only in Texas but the rest of the world. We look for acres to increase in the future in Texas.”

The biggest challenge for growing pecans in Texas, he noted, is water, so part of the course focused on “being good stewards of using our water when we try to grow pecans.”

Amaya has returned to the course since his first experience and said he always learns something new.

“I follow the instructions they give, and I’ve had a pretty good success rate,” Amaya said. “The orchard is doing well; the trees are healthy. It used to be thought that money couldn’t be made on a small acreage, but now with the new processes, you can make a lot of money even on one acre.”

“The short course works for the person who has 10 trees or the commercial grower with 2,000 acres,” Stein said. “The procedures are the same.”  

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