"Big John" moves pecan trees - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

"Big John" moves pecan trees

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March 14, 2003

Dougherty County- "Big John" lifts 12,000 pounds about 30 times a day.

No, "Big John" is not a superhero, but a super machine, moving pecan trees by the dozens. Since February, workers at Sunnyland Farms have been moving overcrowded pecan trees to other orchards. The rain has slowed down the pace a bit, but "Big John" is getting the job done.

This pecan tree has to go. "Last year we had a good crop of nuts but the quality was poor so we think it has to do with them being overcrowded so you have two choices, move trees or thinning, which means cutting them down." So, instead of cutting a productive tree down, Sunnyland Farm's Manager Larry Willson choose to move it.

But moving it is no small matter. First, the tree is cut back to around 20 feet. Then "Big John", a 75,000 dollar piece of equipment, digs right in, lifting the core root, and the tree, right out of the ground. Willson says, "It's a shock to the tree, but the tree will recover."

It will take 7 to 10 years for this tree to fully recover--that's 7 to 10 years without a profitable pecan tree. But, Willson says he figures it's better than planting a new tree, "It's either that or plant a bare root tree from the nursery which takes 10-12 years before producing nuts. It won't be as big as the transplanted tree will be. I think it will pay off verse the bare root tree."

Wet, muddy ground has slowed down the process--but "Big John' will keep moving the 12,000 pound trees until the last one is in place. Larry Willson says about 1100 trees were marked to be moved this season. But because of the rainy weather, only 600 have been moved. He says they'll stop moving trees when budding starts, around April first.

Posted at 4:20 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com