Published on 01/16/08

New pecan offers big nuts, disease resistance

By Lenny Wells
University of Georgia

Backyard pecan growers can’t effectively use fungicides to fight diseases in their trees. They must grow varieties with disease resistance. A new one provides protection and a big nut, too.

The Excel variety was discovered on a farm in Pierce County, Ga. It has been patented and is sold at Clough Pecan Nursery in Blackshear, Ga. Like the Elliott, Summer and Gloria Grande varieties, it has strong resistance to scab, pecan’s most troublesome disease.

Excel bears a relatively good crop at an early age. It has a large nut, producing about 50 nuts per pound. The kernels are a golden color and store well. The quality is good, but its shell thickness reduces the percentage of kernel in the nut. It shells well, though, and kernels fall out in full, complete halves.

A large nut size means the variety will need plenty of water in August and September. This variety can be harvested in late September through early October in most years.

Its thin limbs and sparse leaf canopy give it a willowy look. This allows for good air circulation and sunlight, which prevents insect and other disease damage.

Most pecan trees are alternate-bearing, meaning they produce a full crop every other year. This is always a problem to consider when speculating over the choice of a pecan variety. Since Excel is a relatively new variety, we don’t know a lot about its alternate-bearing tendencies. But when it gets older, it may suffer from alternate-bearing.

Anyone growing pecans should remain aware that scab resistance of any variety may only be temporary. The more widespread a variety, the greater chance it has to lose its scab resistance. This is simply a hazard that anyone growing pecans in the Southeast must face.

The most popular commercial pecan variety in Georgia, the Desirable, was immune to scab when first introduced and is now known as one of the most highly susceptible varieties.

Still, for homeowners, scab control should be the top priority. It does no good to make nuts every year, if they are annually covered in scab lesions. At the moment, no other variety offers the large nut size, early harvest and scab immunity of Excel.

Remember to keep the soil around newly planted trees moist until established. You need at least two pecan varieties in the home orchard to ensure adequate pollination.

For more information on pecan varieties and production go to the Web site or contact your local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

Lenny Wells is the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension state pecan specialist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.