Pecan growers might be able to boost their profits by going organic, say Agricultural Research Service scientists.

U.S. growers produce about 90 percent of the world's pecans, with an annual crop of about 200 million pounds worth about $400 million, according to an ARS news release.

In 2002, ARS scientists led by Joe Bradford at the Integrated Farming and Natural Resources Research Unit in Weslaco, Texas, began transitioning a 27-year-old, conventionally managed pecan orchard to a certified-organic-managed system.  The 20-acre test site is located within the Gebert commercial pecan orchard in Comanche County in north-central Texas. 

Bradford's  primary objective is to provide information on how to convert from conventional  systems that rely on synthetic chemicals to an organic system. 

Contrary to conventional growers' expectations, the ARS organically treated test site out-yielded the conventionally managed Gebert orchard in each of the past five years. Yields on ARS' organic test site surpassed the Gebert commercial orchard by 18 pounds per tree in 2005 and by 12 pounds per tree in 2007. 

The conventional management system generates about $1,750 per acre when the crop is sold.  But the ARS certified-organic-management system would gross $5,290 per acre.


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