2010: A good year for acorns
Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.
MSU Extension educators have received a number of calls this summer about the bumper crop of acorns this year. Foresters and wildlife biologists refer to each year’s crop of acorns and other heavy tree seeds as a “mast.” Typically, acorn masts cycle between heavy and lighter crops with occasional very heavy years (like 2010) or years with very little mast. Several factors go into determining the mast. As noted, some of it is cyclical; heavy years are typically preceded by light years. Then weather is superimposed over this natural cycle. Since oak catkins are produced from buds formed the previous year, drought or other stress can affect catkin production the following year. Also, weather in the spring can affect acorn production. Oaks are wind pollinated, so rainy weather during flowering can reduce pollination and seed set. Along with the large number of acorns, homeowners are noticing that acorns are small this year. This is likely due to the combination of large numbers (trees can produce a few big acorns or lots of little ones) and hot, dry weather when acorns were filling. For the most part, this year’s large mast of acorns shouldn’t be problem, aside the annoyance of running over them with the lawnmower or stepping on them on the sidewalk. On the bright side, acorns are excellent food for wildlife, so heavy mast years usually mean a good year for hunters.
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Dr. Cregg's work is funded in part by MSU's AgBioResearch.