Pecan Research

---------------- R. S. Miller, County Agent, Gillespie County, Fredericksburg, Texas In recent years the pecan industry has come to be one of the most important in Texas. The 1920 census shows that our State that year had 1,050,678 trees of bearing age, from which 16,803,543 pounds of nuts were harvested. This is only approximately 17.pounds to the tree, and in view of this fact, it is certainly proper that so much thought and effort be directed to pecan improvement. Leaders have for years propounded the policy of grading up our livestock, and right-thinking people have long since learned that a scrub animal requires just about as much care, feed, and attention as does the purebred. Likewise does not the scrub pecan tree bearing the inferior nuts utilize as much space and consume as much plant food as the improved pecan tree that bears the large paper shell pecans? Our people in Gillespie County thought that the logic of the above question was correct. In taking stock of the situation they found they had 11,858 bearing trees yielding 257,160 pounds of pecans, or approximately 21 pounds per tree. That was slightly above the average, due possibly to the favorable soil and other factors, but it was not enough. And realizing that the pecan industry was destined to become one of the most productive and potential industries, and in order to contribute their full share toward the proper development of one of our most important industries, they set about to increase the pecan yield and quality of nuts by budding and grafting improved varieties; and with that fundamental determination in their heart, the results of the campaign to be explained by me were attained. The first attempt to bud pecan trees in Gillespie County was done about seven years ago by Henry Grate, County Agent, and J. A. Evans, who at that time was pecan specialist of the Extension Service of the A. & M. College. They budded six or seven trees on the farm of Otto and William Kneese, who have followed up the work until today. The former has 300 trees and the later 200. When I went into the county in November, 1921, the first thing done was to go into the many communities for making a plan of work for each community. The question of pecan improvement came up for consideration, and in April of 1922 we conducted eighteen pecan budding demonstrations, with an approximate attendance of 300 interested farmers. This was followed up with budding schools, where the men were taught the methods of budding and grafting. Each man present budded at least one tree, and I found that the buds placed by those farmers lived just about as good as the ones I personally budded. Right at this point is where the idea of conducting a county-wide campaign developed. Contemplating that there was a big job before us we first set out to see just how big the program would be. In making a survey of the situation we found that we had from 50,000 to 75,000 trees in Gillespie County suitable for budding and grafting, and I realized that it would be a physical impossibility for me to even bud 2,000 trees without serious neglect of many other projects that demanded immediate attention. Then came the idea that if properly taught the average man could do his own budding, and in this way we could work thousands of trees at the same time. In going into the communities to make our 1923 program of work, there were 23 communities which desired pecan improvement. Trained leaders from the previous year were selected who agreed to take hold of this project and carry to a successful end. Then came a definite plan of campaign. Since there were to be four agencies functioning co-operatively, and realizing that it is a common practice for men to "pass the buck" and forget some of the things they were supposed to do, I secured a four-column written agreement with the four agencies outlining specifically what each was to do. This agreement was between the community pecan leader, Commissioners' Court, County Agent, and Extension Service of A. & M. College. To indicate the co-ordination of effort and the absolute dependence of each upon the other to attain accomplishment of the whole campaign, I shall mention briefly the items listed for each in the basic agreement: The community leader agreed to: 1. Circulate a petition, getting every person in his community to sign up for the number of buds he expected to place. 2. Send in petition to County Agent March 1st.  3. Attend County Conference of all community pecan leaders March 10th. 4. Notify all pecan men in his community of the county pecan meeting, which was to be held March 24th. 5. Notify all men signing the petition of pecan budding and grafting demonstrations prior to campaign. 6. Make arrangements for budding knives. 7. Come to Court House the day before the budding campaign and get buds signed for and wax for his respective community. 8. Call a meeting of all pecan men in his community and give each man his part of the buds and wax. 9. Report to the County Agent on the second night of the campaign as to the number of buds placed. 10. Make a second report two months later as to the number of buds living. The Commissioners' Court agreed to: 1. To appropriate money to buy the wax. 2. Get the wax prepared. 3. To send out an appropriate letter to every man who had signed the petition urging him to place the number of buds he had signed up for. Extension Service was to: 1. Send out bulletins to all pecan growers. 2. Arrange for suitable speakers at the county pecan meeting. County Agent agreed to: 1. Furnish the buds desired and have them for distribution the day before the campaign. Immediately enthusiasm ran high and it was gratifying to witness the manner in which the parties to this unusual contract carried out their respective parts. The leaders promptly secured 400 individual requests for buds, totaling approximately 25,000 buds. This then presented itself as the largest problem. I went to San Saba, my home county, and talked with Bill Millican, Frank Moore, Eugene Harber, and E. H. Miller about the proposition, and they being men that are always willing to push the development of the pecan business, told me I could have all the buds I wanted from their very best trees. The grafting demonstrations were conducted with grafts that had been stored. These demonstrations were well attended, and at that time men were trained in budding who had not already received special training. When the county-wide pecan meeting was held over 400 people responded to hear J.H. Burkett talk on the value of pecan improvement in Gillespie County, and R. R. Lancaster on organization. We had determined to do the work of placing the 25,000 buds in two days' time. Some thought it could not be done in so short a time, but when the faithful community leaders came in the afternoon before the campaign to get their allotment of buds and wax it was truly a sight to please any one. While I gave out the buds our progressive County Judge, Herman Usener, gave each man his part of the wax. Mr. Usener took a very active part in the campaign and prepared all the wax himself. The results of the campaign concisely summarized are that in two days our people under this organized campaign placed 25,000 buds on 16,000 trees in two days' time. Reports from the community leaders show that approximately 50 per cent of the buds placed are growing. The failure of a great many of the buds to grow was due to tying and waxing. The campaign has been considered so successful that already the Chamber of Commerce has appropriated funds and will conduct a special pecan show this fall. The Commissioners have appropriated money to buy the wax to be used in another campaign which will be put over next spring. Many growers who did not have small trees to bud this year topped back the larger trees preparatory to budding next year. It was just simply organized movement in which everybody knew what he was supposed to do and when to do it. And with 400 people trained in budding, and the great interest that has been created in pecan improvement, I fully believe that in five years' time we will have worked over every pecan tree suitable for budding and grafting in Gillespie County to improved varieties.

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