Published on 08/09/06

Georgia pecan harvest could be smallest in years

By Brad Haire
University of Georgia

Georgia's pecan harvest this year could be the smallest it has been in more than a decade, says a University of Georgia specialist.

"This year will certainly be an off year for pecans. There just aren't many nuts on trees right now," said Lenny Wells, the UGA Cooperative Extension state pecan specialist. "But the quality of what is harvested should be good, provided we have adequate soil moisture in September."

Georgia growers are expected to harvest about 35 million to 40 million pounds, he said, only 40 percent of last year's 90 million pounds.

This year's crop could be the lowest since 1992, when the state produced only 30 million pounds. The state’s largest crop was the following year, producing 150 million pounds in 1993, according to the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service.

Georgia had a good pecan crop last year. But that good crop and several periods of dry weather are why this year's crop will be low.

This year was already going to be an "off" year, Wells said. Pecan, hickory and walnut trees normally produce a strong crop every other year. Statewide weather conditions such as cloudy or sunny summers put most orchards on the same on-and-off cycle.

But even on an off year, he said, Georgia usually musters around 50 million pounds statewide.

Though Georgia has had drought conditions this summer, a dry spell last August through September is contributing to the low production expected this year, Wells said.

"The crop for the following year will be determined at this time," he said. "Stressed trees such as in a drought will create chemical signals that stimulate the cells to grow more vegetation, and less goes to production."

Last year's crop was good, but it still fell a little short of expectations. And the 2004 crop was an off year with about 45 million pounds. Because of this, there are few pecans in storage, he said. Prices to farmers should be good this year.

For a while last year, growers got as much as $2 per pound, a good price. Wells expects farmers to receive good prices again this year because Texas, which usually vies against Georgia for top-producing state, is having an off year, too, and is plagued by drought conditions.

Georgia growers harvest pecans from late October through November.

Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.