Pecans are a very important nut crop for the state of Georgia. We are ranked No. 1 in the nation in pecan production, having more than 145,000 acres planted in pecans in Georgia.
Pecan production in Georgia is valued at around $315 million, according to the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.
The last few years have not been great for Georgia's pecan farmers.
Unusually wet summers have wreaked havoc on harvest yields, leading to market shortages and higher than normal prices for consumers.
Wet summer weather adversely affects pecan production due to a fungal disease- pecan scab (Fusicladium effusum).
Pecan scab affects the leaves and nuts of fruiting pecan trees. If the weather is wet enough, scab can infect the nuts early, causing them to turn black and fall from the tree.
When pecans fall from the trees before maturing, they rot on the ground and are not suitable for harvest or human consumption.
Scab is common on pecan trees throughout the state. I see at least some of it in North Georgia every year.
However, it is much more common in the commercial pecan growing areas of South Georgia. Disease prevalence tends to be higher in places where susceptible crops are concentrated.
Many of the commercial pecan producers in South Georgia end up applying protective fungicides to guard against scab infection. There have also been pecan varieties bred with scab resistance in mind.
Georgia's most popular pecan variety is the Stuart.
Other popular varieties include Sumner, Cape Fear and Desirable.
Until recently, many producers had been planting large amounts of the Desirable variety pecan trees. When first released, Desirable was known for consistent production and large nut size. It was also fairly scab resistant.
As more of Desirable trees were planted, the amount of trees the scab fungus could infect increased, allowing the fungus to overcome the genetic resistance in that variety. Last year was the first time in several years that the Desirable variety fell from the top spot of newly planted trees.
Regardless of variety, 2015 is predicted to be a good year for Georgia's pecan crop.
This summer was not as wet as previous years, and total yield should be between 110 and 120 million pounds this year.
This is good news for Georgia consumers, as higher yields should mean higher availability and lower prices.
If you would like to experience fresh South Georgia pecans this year, Dawson County 4-H can help you out.
4-H'ers are selling 1-pound bags of shelled pecan halves for $12 each to raise money for 4-H Club events. These pecans are shipped directly from a South Georgia orchard and will arrive just before Thanksgiving.
Call the Dawson County Extension office at (706) 265-2442 for information.
Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent.