Severe weather events frequently have devastating impacts on perennial tree crops. Pecan orchards and groves are particularly susceptible to damage from tornadoes (Sparks and Payne, 1985), hurricanes (Hagler et al., 1980; Kilby and Converse, 1970; Reighard et al., 2001; Sparks, 2005; Wood et al., 2001), and ice storms (Lott and Ross, 1994; O'Barr, 1994; Smith, 2008). Ice damage is typically more severe in pecan orchards than other orchard crops because the long limbs act as levers, increasing the likelihood of breakage. Following damaging weather events, producers seek information concerning effective cleanup procedures, subsequent management, recovery duration, and economic impact. State and Federal agencies and insurance companies seek guidance concerning economic impact and how to assist producers. However, there is a dearth of information concerning management and economics following a destructive weather episode, particularly for ice storm damage, that is useful for pecan producers and supporting agencies.
Oklahoma has 85,740 acres of pecans on 2,879 farms (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2002). About 90% of Oklahoma's production is from native groves, with the rest from planted orchards (Smith, 2006). Ice storms struck Oklahoma four times from 2000 through 2007. The first damaging storm was in Dec. 2000, followed by a storm in Dec. 2001, and then two icing events in 2007 during January and December. The Dec. 2000 ice storm encompassed the southeast quarter of Oklahoma, and extended into the northern parts of Texas and Louisiana and southwestern Arkansas. An estimated 25,000 to 30,000 acres of pecans were damaged in Oklahoma (Smith and Stafne, 2007). Damage varied among orchards depending primarily on the ice load, but in many instances, damage was severe (Fig. 1). The 2001 storm was in northwestern Oklahoma where there are few pecan orchards. Damage was extensive in some orchards, but not widespread. The Jan. 2007 ice storm followed U.S. highway 69 from southern Oklahoma extending through the Springfield, MO, region (Smith and Stafne, 2007). An estimated 4,000 acres of pecans were damaged in Oklahoma. Some orchards received damage in both the Dec. 2000 and Jan. 2007 ice storms. The ice storm in Dec. 2007 received the most publicity because it included Tulsa, OK; Oklahoma City, OK; and other highly populated areas. Damage from this storm extended from north central Texas, following a northeastern line through Oklahoma into Missouri. In Oklahoma, about 17,000 acres of pecans were damaged (Smith, 2008).
Our objective is to provide information for producers and others regarding the impact of an ice storm on pecans. Four ice storms covering a relatively short time span allowed numerous observations of orchard cleanup and subsequent management scenarios on tree performance. In addition, economic data are reported from selected producers.
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