Pawnee, Sioux, Choctaw, and Cheyenne - thinking Indians?

No, try pecans, many of which are named after Native American tribes.

According to Mark Littlejohn, owner of Littlejohn’s Produce, it’s a great year for pecans.

“This is one of the largest pecan crops in recent history,” Littlejohn said. “I expect to buy a lot of pecans.”

Littlejohn said he had an influx of pecan sellers on Thursday and bought between 7,000 and 8,000 pounds. Enough for him to start running two pecan cracking machines full time all day long. Littlejohn said this year he’s paying 50 cents a pound and last year he paid 60 cents a pound.

He said some of the trees were so loaded this year the pecans, “didn’t fill out good in the hull.” In other instances, branches became so heavy from the weight they snapped off.

Littlejohn’s own orchard of 2,000 native pecan trees in Comanche County near Gustine didn’t fare as well as some orchards. He said his orchard is on the Leon River and when Proctor Lake officials began releasing water from the dam, the river bottom flooded, and made it impossible to spray for a variety of diseases that affect the trees. Littlejohn said his trees, “have a little bit of everything,” causing them not to produce well.

Oleta Knowles who has 190 acres in pecan trees near Hico echoed the problem of too much water.

“A big percentage of ours are Wichita pecans,” Knowles said. “They are susceptible to scab fungus.”

Knowles said her orchard received 55 inches of rain from February through July, preventing access to the orchard making preventive measures to combat the scab fungus impossible. She said this year is “one of the worst crops we’ve had.”

The scab fungus attacks both the leaves and nuts of the trees.

“They just turn black and fall off the trees,” Knowles said. “The Cheyenne crop is about the same. Most of the crop is lost.”

John Stacy, market news reporter for the Texas Department of Agriculture said, “Statewide, it’s a bigger crop than last year,” but said he doesn’t expect it to be a record crop year.

Normally, by this time of year, he said he would have seen sales of native pecans and there have been very few of those pecans come through the market so far. Without a frost or light freeze that would have usually occurred before now the shucks on the pecans have not split open. With leaves still on the trees it’s making the harvest a little late, he said.

“Last week when the harvest was beginning here it started raining again,” Stacy said. “Again, they couldn’t get in the fields to harvest.”

Stacy said wildlife can have an impact when a crop cannot be harvested on time.

Too much rain preventing pesticide and fungicide spraying he said is one problem common all over the state except for far west Texas.

“The rains came when guys needed to be in there spraying,” Stacy said.

Stacy said Georgia produces more pecans than any other state and harvests earlier.

“It looks like they’re going to have a really good crop,” he said. “They set the price trend.”

Stacy said he doesn’t foresee a lot of difference in price from last year to this year. One reason he said is because last year cold storage supplies were “dipped into” and until there are enough supplies to replace those he expects prices will stay about the same.

ANGELIA JOINER is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at angelia.joiner@empiretribune.com or 254-965-3124,ext. 238.