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Weather 101: Drought, Rain And The Impact On Pecan Crops

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Texas is one of the top producing pecan states in the country. You may have noticed the native nuts are more expensive this year – and it's because of the weather.

Kinley Sorrells runs Sorrells Farms, one of the biggest pecan growers in Comanche County. It took 40 years to build the farm up to 1000 acres in size and he's watched his more than 30,000 trees struggle this last season.

The weather this last growing season seemed to conspire against pecan growers.

"We went through an extremely dry summer. Really, April through August, mid-September [there was] maybe 2 inches total, at best," Sorrells said, talking about the lack of rainfall. "And then it started to rain about the 15th of September. We've had approximately 35 inches of rain mid-September, October, November and December."

Too dry in the spring and summer and too wet in the fall to harvest. What looked to be a record crop across Texas became a modest one.

Sorrells Farms has softened the blow by diversifying. Their retail store in downtown Comanche helps, but you'll find his other crops in area grocery stores. "By growing the vegetable crops that we grow well that allows me to keep all of my employees year-round."

Pecans are still more than half of Sorrells income. And unlike other crops, pecan growing requires a long-range view "You'll get some pecan harvest in the 5th and 6th year," he said. "It's about the 8th to the 10th year before it becomes profitable."

Texas has become an important pecan state. The number one producer, Georgia, suffered devastating losses to its crop last year from Hurricane Michael.

While this year's pecan crops in Texas are disappointing the fall rains have loaded up the soil with water. Sorrells said, "It's as wet as I've ever seen it. We are set up for a great [future] season."

That ground water can sustain a pecan tree all the way to July. Then irrigation should keep the potential banner crop moving along.

It's the story of farming. There are good years and bad years. But it's the climate in Comanche County and other parts of Texas that seems to push one's luck.

CBS 11 Meteorologist Jeff Ray says the worst thing that can happen to pecan farmers is to get dry weather in July and August, the two driest months in Texas, and a freeze in mid-April, the average freeze date in Comanche. About 115 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

"We're living on the edge," Sorrells said.

Sorrell Farms is currently being featured on the Discovery Channel on the show "How It's Made". The Sorrells Farms retail store is in downtown Comanche, about 115 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

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