Pecan Nuts (Carya illinoensis )
The pecan pages on this site include listings of pecan nurseries, growers, sales as well as industry overviews, propagation information, pecan products and a range of other pecan related information.
The pecan is a native American tree nut and is a member of the hickory family. The US and Mexico is responsible for around 90% of the world’s traded pecan nuts. The prime producing area is from new Mexico through to Georgia. Other pecan producing countries include Australia, Mexico, China, Argentina, Israel and South Africa. Pecan’s constitute less than 5% of the world tree nut trade.
China is the world’s leading importer of pecan nuts and the market has grown expedentially. The import of pecan nuts into China was virtually negligable five years ago while a year ago import demand had increased to around one-quarter of the USA crop. In 2010 China accounted for more than 20% of global pecan consumption.
In Australia pecans prefer hot humid summers and are primarily grown in Northern New South Wales and South-eastern Queensland. Small plantings also exist in South Australia and south-western Western Australia.
Australian Pecan Nut Industry
With world demand anticipated to continue to outstrip supply, the future of the pecan industry in Australia looks very promising. The Australian season, being counter seasonal to the northern hemisphere, creates a lucrative opportunity to export into China.
The Stahmann Processing Plant at Toowoomba
A further advantage of the Australian pecan harvest is that the use of innovative production techniques, and relatively pest free environment, mean that the bulk of the crop is grown without the use of chemical pesticides. This, along with Australia’s recognised high quality control standards, is of growing importance to increasingly discerning consumers.
Australia has in excess of 100 pecan growers and plantings in excess of 180,000 trees.
Australian Pecan Growers Association Inc. (APGA)
Visit the Australian Pecan Growers Association Inc. site for information.
Stahmann Farm’s orchard at Moree accounts for about 80% of Australian pecan production and operates the country’s only commercial pecan shelling, value-adding and packing plant.
See the Austnuts Stahmann Farms page for information on Stahmann Farms.
Pecan under favourable conditions can grow to 30 metres and make a great specimen tree in a largish garden. Stahmann Farms pioneered the technique of hedging pecan trees to achieve the optimum balance of leaf and fruit. Although similar in some respects to a walnut tree, the pecan however is more soil and climate tolerant.
Pecan trees need deep well drained soils, preferably alluvial, 2-4 metres deep. They can survive in heavier soils but do not produce as well in the longer term. Slightly acid or alkaline soils are preferable.
Pecans are a slow growing tree, cropping lightly after five years and not cropping commercially until around ten years old. If well maintained pecan trees can live and produce well for generations. Normally pecans are planted on a square grid, with spacings of 12-15 metres between trees.
Although a sub-tropical tree, they will tolerate moderate frosts and need cool winters to set properly. They will not tolerate late frosts and short summers and who can blame them. Minimum heat unit requirements of 2,000 for the months from October through to April are required. The optimal climatic areas are south-eastern Queensland and New South Wales. Some ares of northern Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia also meet the 2,000 heat unit requirements but can be more susceptible to early and late frost seasons. Pecans need 200-220 frost-free days.
Irrigation is required especially in late spring and early summer when the trees are setting nuts.
Self pollinated varieties are available but 2 trees of different cultivars usually result in more nuts. Pecan nuts which have been cross variety pollinated have also shown to be larger and have increased kernal size. Pecans are pollinated by the wind and expert advice should be sought in relation to variety selection for optimum pollination results. Some US producers use air blasting machines to maximise pollination.
Pecan cultivars differ in the order male and female flowers mature. Some varieties self pollinate while others are early or late pollinators. A nursery specialising in nut trees should be able to provide you with advice on suitable cultivars for your needs.
Useful pages on growing Information can be found in the following references:
- Australian Pecan Growers Asociation – Growing Pecans
- Dayleys Fruit
- Eltham Valley Pantry
- Home Fruit Production (Dept. Horticultural Sciences – Texas)
- Training Young Pecan Trees (New Mexico State University)
Harvesting occurs from April through to June. Yields vary according to pecan type, climate and timing (good yields one year followed by lighter yields the next). Good average yields for the NSW northern coastal regions total around 20-30 kg/tree or 2-2.5 tonnes/ha.
Health and Nutrition
Pecan nuts are high in fibre, protein and energy and have the highest level of antioxidants of any nut ( or any natural food product for that matter). See the Pecan Nut – Health and Nutrition page for more details.
Popular Pecan Varieties
Tthere are over 500 different varieties of pecans available for consumption.The following are popular varities grown in Australia. Prospective growers should seek expert advice on variety selection to suit varying climate and soil conditions, disease tolerance, production, kernel percentage, nut size and shape, appearance and taste.
A popular variety but nuts can be adversely affected by too little or too much water. The tree is vigorous and an early to mid season bearer. The Wichita variety bears at a young age and sheds pollen late. Among pecan varieties the wichita is comparitively arid tolerant. Besy varieties for cross pollination purposes include Cheyenne, Cherokee and Western schley.
- Western Schley
The Western Schley is another popular variety grown in Australia but will shed a percentage of nuts if there is a bumper crop. Although often planted to assist in pollinating the Wichita variety, it will generally crop without a pollen donor, which makes it popular as a single-tree planting in the home garden. The Western Schley does require plenty of water and is a popular choice for culinary and confectionary purposes. Best varieties for pollination purposes include, Wichita, Chicasaw and Kiowa.
The most attractive features of the Mohawk pecan variety are the very large flavoursom nut (kernal can exceed 60% of the total nut weight) encased in a paper- thin shell. The tree is hardy and vigorous, matures early and is a profilic bearer. This cultivar was selected from a cross between ‘Success’ and ‘Mahan’ and is an older variety being released in 1965.
Large nuts similar to Mahan. Thin shell of attractive appearance. Kernel can exceed 60% of weight of the entire nut. Separates easily from shell; high quality, matures early. Vigorous and hardy tree, prolific bearer.
A cross between Burkett and Schley pecan tree cultivars the Apache is often used as rootstock as it is suitable to a wide variety of environments and is a vigorous fast growing tree bearing in 8 – 12 years.x.
See Pecan Nurseries for stockists.
Australian Pecan Nurseries
|Australian Pecan Growers
- Growing Pecans (Australian Pecan Growers Association Inc)
- Establishing a Pecan Orchard (U.S. University of Georgia)
- Organic Pecans: Another Option for Growers (U.S. Agricultural Research Service)
- Pecan Breeding Program (University of Georgia)
- Sustainable Pecan Production (U.S. National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service)
- Wikipedia – The Pecan
- Home Preservation of Pecans (National Center for Home Food Preservation (US)
- South African Pecan Producers Association
- Texas Pecan Growers Association
Images on this page provided courtesy of Stahmann Farms