Western View: The Persistent Pecan

Taylor Hillman Features, General, Western View

Len Wilcox explains how this humble nut is a symbol of California Agriculture.


Recently I got to write an article that shows what’s so great about California agriculture. It’s the story of pecans, and how they will soon become a contender in the California nut industry. It’s a story of dedicated farmers applying technology and science to make their crop better.

Presently there are less than 4,000 acres of pecans in production in California, which is hardly a single nut in the can compared to pistachios or almonds. The first commercial orchard were planted in the 1970s. Compared to other nuts, The market was ho-hum, and it was a costly nut to grow. But there were people here who believed pecans could be a great crop to grow in California, as the tree was very adaptable to all sorts of soils and it lived a very long time with good crops for 100 years or more.

So people like the Cripe family near Stockton and Brian Blain in Visalia began experimenting. Working with UC advisor Steve Sibbett, Blain discovered pruning techniques and tree management techniques that kept the tree size manageable and improved production. The Cripe family developed varieties that allow pecan orchards to thrive anywhere in the central valley. They learned that pecans did just fine in lousy soil as well as good. And, as long as you pampered them with proper pruning and management, there’s no off-year. Nut production can remain steady year after year.

The only problem left is, there hasn’t been much of a market for pecans. That’s changing. The health food industry recognized pecans as a healthy nut and nationally, growers and packers have come together to work on a marketing order. Now the export market is growing with new demand for pecans around the world.

This is California Farming at its best – constantly improving a quality product. If you’d like to know more, look for your copy of West Coast Nut Grower Guide for my article. I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View for AgNet West.