The days are getting shorter, there’s a cool breeze in the air, and if you listen carefully, you can hear pecans hitting the orchard floor. It's harvest time! At first glance, harvesting pecans seems pretty easy. You wait for them to fall off the tree, pick them up by hand, throw them into a bucket, and you're on your way. But harvesting isn’t quite that simple and there are a few different ways to go about it.
Consider one mature pecan tree can produce well over a hundred pounds of nuts. There could be over 5,000 of those little things laying on the ground, and that’s just underneath one tree. Think about that in light of how many trees you have on your property or how many you plan on planting in the future. You could have a serious job on your hands harvesting pecans.
Another thing to consider is that all the nuts won't drop at the same time. If you don't have a tree shaker available, you may have to harvest the same area several times depending on the quality of nuts you're going for or how many nuts you're willing to lose to critters while you wait on the rest of them to fall off the tree.
When you think about the time it takes to harvest by hand and that most folks simply won’t tolerate the discomfort it brings to their backs and knees, it comes as no surprise there are several inventions out there to help with harvesting pecans. There are pecan harvesters of all shapes and sizes and they are scaled to take on anything, from hundreds of acres of professionally managed orchards, all the way down to just a tree or two in the front yard.
If you’ve never seen a professional pecan harvester in action, you need to kill a little time on YouTube and check them out. The engineering that goes into some of these harvesters is amazing. The volume they can deal with on a daily basis is impressive. The down side to these commercial harvesters is they come with hefty price tags. Depending on your particular situation, you may need hundreds of producing trees in order to justify owning commercial harvesting equipment. Once you start down that road, it often leads to owning a whole line of commercial products to help harvest your pecans. You could end up with sprayers, blowers, shakers, cleaners, and sweepers.
Most of you are probably not in that category and will end up using simpler harvesters like the ones we offer at Bag-a-nut. Harvesters in this class can be operated by hand or with a lawn mower or tractor. Typically the only accessories you need to go with them are a backpack blower and something to put the nuts in once they've been harvested.
An advantage to simpler harvesters is they simplify the whole process of harvesting. Pecan trees often fall into an alternate bearing pattern, meaning they produce nuts every other year, so sometimes you may go a couple years without getting your harvester out of the barn. If commercial equipment sits too long, when you finally get it out you could be facing a few days of greasing up bearings and tuning carburetors just to get them up and running again.
Although they may not be able to compete with the volume commercial harvesters can handle, simpler harvesters offer a lot of advantages in that they are easier to maintain, easier to operate, they take up less space in the off season, and are much more affordable. Most people with small or hobby orchards find them to be a much better alternative for their harvesting needs.
Keep in mind, harvesting by hand is still a possibility and some folks are still tough enough to do it that way. The benefits are you don't have to run any noisy equipment and you're getting fresh air and exercise. However, the reality is most people don't like the discomfort of harvesting by hand and simply don't have the time.
There are a lot of ways to harvest pecans. The right way to do it is the way that best fits with you and the goals you have for your trees. Take your time, research harvesters, check out our pecan harvesters, make a plan, and get out there and enjoy some time under your trees!