It's pecan time in Kansas

It's pecan time in Kansas

Harvest of popular native nut is getting under way along state's river bottoms

It's almost time to harvest pecans, one of the native crops of Kansas.

Pecans have grown wild for centuries in Kansas, especially along the flood plain regions of rivers in the southeast.

For more than 50 years, Kansas State University has operated an Extension Research station at Chetopa in the far southeastern corner of the state, home to the Chetopa Pecan variety.

Director William Reid says this year's harvest has been delayed by wet weather, but it is looking extremely good, especially on the newer varieties.

READY TO HARVEST: Pecans, a native crop to Kansas, are close to harvest in Kansas river bottom flood plains.

"Pecans actually do better when it is a little on the dry side," he said. "When there is too much moisture, the threat of pecan scab goes up. It's a major disease that can cause big yield losses."

The good news, he said, is that it is treatable with fungicide and this year's crop is bountiful. Harvest will begin within a few weeks, he said, and continue through the end of December.

At the experiment station, new varieties are cultivated by grafting wood or buds from the desired variety to the root stock of a native or established variety.

"From that point on the fruit will be identical to the grafted variety," he said.

He said that Kansas growers are advised to use root stocks that come from northern states including Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.

"You can have a situation where you use a root stock from Texas and graft it with a Kansas variety like Kanza or Pawnee and you will actually get a top of the tree that survives while the roots freeze," he said. "It is a matter of climate tolerability."

Pecans are native to a wide area of river flood plain area from Mississippi all the way into southern Ohio, he said, with many pecan trees growing in the microclimate of the Mississippi River.

"The power of the Mississippi is huge," he said. "The microclimate it creates allows pecans to grow all the way into Illinois and Kentucky and southern Ohio. The native varieties follow major rivers."

Interestingly, he said, pecans are not native to the state that tops the nation in pecan production, Georgia.

Read more about Kansas pecan production and where the nuts produced at the research station in Chetopa ae sold in the December Kansas Farmer.

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