Published on 09/21/00

Timely Rains Help Georgia Pecan Orchards

Pecan growers gave a sigh of relief as timely September rains fell on state orchards during a critical growing stage, says a University of Georgia pecan expert.

The 3 to 5 inches of rain that fell in early September "were right on time for the pecans," said Tom Crocker, a horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Photo: Brad Haire

Timely September rains will enable Georgia pecans to mature into quality nuts.

Rains Help Nuts

Between early September and October, pecans enter a growing stage known as nut fill, when the edible part of the nut fills the hull. The rain will help the nut mature and improve the quality for harvest, Crocker said.

Not only was the rain beneficial, Crocker said, but the way it was delivered couldn't have been better. The steady, light showers came with little wind gusts that could damage tree limbs, knocking down the overall production and dollar value of the crop.

Disease Risk

However, the rain does increase the risk of late-season scab, a fungus that can severely reduce the quantity and quality of yields, said Tim Brenneman, a UGA plant pathology researcher at the Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton. But damage due to scab would be minimal this late in the season.

"We could also have some scab carry over to next season," Brenneman said.

For now, the perfect weather for pecans won't be rainy. "We need it to clear off and get some sunshine," Brenneman said, "so the leaves can put out what they need to fill those nuts right now."

With the third straight year of drought, the $100 million state pecan crop has had to depend greatly on irrigation. About two-thirds of the state orchards are irrigated.

But overall, "the pecan crop looks real good right now," Crocker said.

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