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A 53-Year-Old Tradition Continues in January with the Texas Pecan Short Course

At the 2016 Pecan Short Course, the group learned how to plant pecan trees. Attendees participate in hands-on instruction like this and witness many other demonstrations during the four-day course. (Photo by Pecan South)

The Texas Pecan Short Course has a history that dates back to 1965 when it started as a week-long class for county extension agents who needed to gain practical training on pecan culture, grafting, pruning, fertilizer, and pest management. Originally taught by the late Professor Emeritus J. Benton Storey, the training had small beginnings with a twelve-seat limit in the small classroom in which it was taught on the Texas A&M University campus. By the late 1960s, agents began to bring a few growers along to the class, since the commercial pecan industry was rapidly growing into an important commercial farming industry.

In 1973, Storey, Ph.D., handed the class over to new Ph.D. graduate and Extension Specialist George Ray McEachern, who grew the short course into a more comprehensive educational training. McEachern compiled a “textbook” for the class, the Texas Pecan Handbook, which had contributions from several Texas A&M University professors and extension specialists who were engaged in pecan science at the time.

Agents and growers alike attended the course and would attend lectures from Storey, McEachern, Blueford Hancock, Sammy Helmers, John Lipe, Jerral Johnson and others on new and emerging subjects, such as high-density planting, weed management with herbicides, zinc deficiency management, pecan scab, and new varieties.

The class remained on the A&M campus, finding bigger and bigger classrooms to accommodate the growing demand for the class. Through McEachern’s dedication to the quality and comprehensiveness of the educational experience, the Texas Pecan Short Course became both a national and international educational event. Growers from Mexico, South America, Australia, and throughout the U.S. began to make the trip to Aggieland each January to participate. One of the traditions of the Short Course is that every participant gets to make a “Texas Pecan Variety Board,” a unique display of the 48 most common pecan varieties grown in Texas.

The Texas Pecan Shortcourse continues its tradition in 2018 of being an “immersion class” for prospective pecan growers, new orchard managers, county agents and horticulture students. No experience is needed to attend the class, nor is anyone who has great experience turned away.

McEachern still lectures for the course, which has been coordinated since 2002 by Larry Stein, Ph.D., and assisted since 2010 by Monte Nesbitt. These three individuals combine extensive pecan research and experience into lectures on a wide array of important pecan production topics.

Several guest lecturers also appear on what has been condensed to a four-day program, including Drs. David Reed, Leo Lombardini and Rosemary Walzem, and Bill Ree, covering topics on plant physiology, health benefits of pecans, marketing, and integrated pest management.

With pecans gaining national and international attention through the work of U.S. Pecans and the newly formed American Pecan Council, interest in pecan education is presently very high, and enrollment has exceeded 80 people each year since 2011.

Although traditionally held on the Texas A&M campus, the Texas Pecan Short Course moved off campus in 2017 to the Department of Horticultural Science’s HortTREC facility, ten miles from campus in Burleson County’s “Brazos Bottom”. This relocation has further authenticated the course experience by increasing the class time in the Texas A&M Pecan Orchard, where participants experience hands-on demonstrations of tree planting, training, pruning, harvesting and tree spraying.

Registration for the 2018 Texas Pecan Short Course is now open online. You can also register by phone at 979-845-2604. Registration is set at $225/person and includes lunch each day. Enrollment is limited to 90 people. A tentative course agenda is found on the registration site.

Questions may be directed to Monte Nesbitt, 979-862-1218 or
Author Photo

Monte Nesbitt

Dr. Nesbitt is an Extension Program Specialist – Pecan/Fruit/Citrus at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, College Station.