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Harvest Update and Drought

The pecan harvest picked up momentum this week as many growers began harvesting Desirable, Stuart, and other mid-harvest season varieties. Desirables seem to be shaking out well while Stuart is probably not quite ready to really come out as we would like. I expect they won’t really shake well in most orchards for another couple of weeks. However, many growers with mid-November contracts are now under the gun and have to proceed and sacrifice a few green nuts to meet their contracts. Growers in East Georgia are still dealing with cleanup from the last storm and are trying to harvest around the debris in some cases. Prices remain very strong. For details on prices see the link here.

The most common question I have had this week regards the drought throughout most of the state not impacted by the Hurricane. Most of these areas have not seen a rain since early September and conditions are terribly dry. It makes for good harvest weather but many growers are concerned about the tree’s water needs at this time. For mature trees, Continue irrigation at about 40% until shuck split is advanced enough to shake, then turn irrigation off 4-5 days prior to shaking to allow shucks to dry. My observation has been that this helps them to shake out better. After going over the orchard, turn water back on for about 6-8 hours a couple of times a week until we get a 1″ rain.

In many cases, hot weather like we are seeing puts some varieties that tend to spread out their shuck split, like Stuart, at risk for sprouting. So, that is a possibility under our current conditions.

Immature trees may benefit from irrigation once a week for 4-5 hours until rain arrives or until they lose their leaves. Don’t over-water young trees at this time of year because you don’t want to delay them going into dormancy and put them at a greater risk for cold damage when the cold weather arrives.

We do have a newly published extension bulletin on Pecan Water Requirements and Irrigation Scheduling found here. This is for mature trees only.

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About Lenny Wells

I am a Professor of Horticulture and Extension Horticulture Specialist for pecans at the University of Georgia. My research and extension programs focus on practical cultural management strategies that help to enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of pecan production in Georgia.