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Noble Research Institute's Pecan Research Strategy

Posted Oct. 1, 2010

In an August 2010 News and Views article, the Agriculture Research Team outlined strategic areas where we will be focusing our research for the next five years. We decided to emphasize these areas of research due to their importance to regional producers, the potential to have a significant impact on the industry and the opportunity to improve costs associated with many agricultural enterprises in Oklahoma and northern Texas. As a review, the strategic research areas for the Agricultural Division have been identified as:

  • forage-based beef cattle production;
  • forage agronomy;
  • wildlife and range ecology;
  • bioenergy;
  • horticulture; and
  • economics.

 

We would like to take this opportunity to familiarize you with the activities of the pecan research program within our horticulture emphasis.

Pecans have become a very important crop in Oklahoma and northern Texas. In fact, Texas and Oklahoma rank as the top two states in the nation for total acres of commercial pecan production. Texas leads the nation with 175,542 acres and Oklahoma follows with 141,765 acres. The economic impact of these production acres is estimated at nearly $90 million annually for Texas and $14 million annually for Oklahoma. Obviously, pecans are an important crop to our region, but little research has been performed in the areas of pecan nutrient management, water utilization and establishment practices. Therefore, the Noble Research Institute has undertaken a 10-year production and establishment study to help provide solutions and management recommendations to farmers and ranchers involved in this enterprise.

The Noble Research Institute has been commercially producing pecans for over 30 years on a 500-acre orchard that consists of 250 acres of native pecans and 250 acres of improved varieties. However, to answer production and establishment questions related to new orchards growing modern varieties, the Noble Research Institute established an orchard in 2007 that is comprised of Pawnee, Kanza, Nocona, Oconee, Choctaw and Meramec trees. Charles Rohla, Ph.D., has been the lead scientist on this project and, from the beginning, established this orchard with the producer in mind. The first studies to be conducted at the orchard were designed to examine establishment strategies on water requirements and pecan production. Since then, Dr. Rohla has added studies looking at irrigation methods, nutrient requirements and nutrient delivery strategies. Recently, Drs. Rohla and Jon Biermacher, agricultural research economist, have teamed up to evaluate pecan management strategies for both native and planted orchards to determine the best management practices based on performance and economics.

While it takes many years to realize the fruits from these management and establishment studies, the Noble Research Institute recognized the importance of this information to our regional producers and has generously made the human and capital investment for this research. While the wait may be long, we expect that the results from Drs. Rohla and Biermacher's work will significantly benefit the pecan industry as well as give our regional producers the knowledge to lead the nation in pecan production.

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