Organic Pecans Shake Up the Agriculture World


Photo by Corey Leopold/Flickr

We all know organic produce is better for our health, but recent research in organic pecan farming has revealed it can also be better for farmers' pocketbooks. In 2002 researchers from the Agricultural Research Service transitioned half of a conventional pecan orchard in Comanche County, in north-central Texas, into a certified-organic-managed system. Scientist Joe Bradford started by balancing the nutrients and biology of the soil in the hopes that improving soil health would in turn improve tree health, allowing the trees to become naturally resistant to disease and pests. Up to 15 soil treatments were applied, including poultry litter and compost, rock minerals, mycorrhizal fungi, and nutrients including iron, zinc, copper and manganese.

Pests were controlled by introducing Trichogramma wasps, which prevent pecan casebearer moth larvae from developing, and by spraying the trees with spinosad, an organic insecticide naturally derived from a bacterium found in soil.

The result? The yields of the organic half of the orchard have outperformed the conventional half over the past five year.

What's more, U.S. farmers produce 90 percent of the world's pecans, so this research could have a significant impact on the entire pecan industry, potentially leading to an industry-wide movement toward organic practices.

And going organic will take a healthy nut—pecans are packed with protein, plant sterols and antioxidants, and are a great source of zinc, which may help alleviate nausea during pregnancy—and make it all the better for you.

Source: ARS news release, Agricultural Research magazine

Tags: Agriculture | Biology | Farming | Texas

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