By Clint Thompson
Wet and mild winter conditions could have major implications on Georgia’s pecan crop this season.
With temperatures in the low 80s, following an extreme wet period on March 4 and 5, the state’s pecan trees should be changing in the next few weeks, says University of Georgia Cooperative Extension pecan specialist Lenny Wells.
“As far as any (trees) that are standing in water in some spots because of all the rain, because they’re dormant, it’s not going to be as big of a deal or as big of a problem with them,” Wells said. “(But) I really expect us to see bud break within a few weeks. If (the water is) still around at that time, which it very well could be in some spots, I think then that could cause some issues. Certainly, where there are waterlogged (trees), they’re going to be attractive for ambrosia beetles. That could be an issue.”
Trees that are most vulnerable to ambrosia beetle damage are young and stressed, especially those under flooded conditions. Georgia’s increased rainfall this winter has left many orchards in South Georgia susceptible, even those acres still under development.
“All of the rain and wet soil conditions could delay people finishing up their plantings of trees. The closer you get to bud break with planting, again, the more likely you are to have problems with ambrosia beetles,” Wells said. “It’s caused some issues for them.”
If growers detect beetles and suspect tree damage, immediate action is required in order to save the tree. If trees are attacked, producers need to apply pyrethroids at the trunk of the tree. The more often a tree is attacked by the beetles, the less likely that tree is to survive.
Since the warm temperatures help lead to early bud break in pecan trees, they’ll also lead to earlier and increased chemical applications for scab disease. Scab disease does not usually kill trees, but it can greatly reduce yields. The fungal pathogen that causes scab overwinters in the tree as lesions on stems and old nut shucks that remain in the tree after harvest. When temperatures begin to warm in the spring, the fungus becomes active and starts to produce new spores that are spread by rain and wind.
“A lot of growers are going to wait until they have a little more foliage on the trees to begin spraying. But as soon as the buds pop out, the sooner they’ll have to start spraying,” Wells said. “That makes the spray season longer and increases the number of sprays they’ll potentially have to make.”
For more information about pecan production, see https://site.extension.uga.edu/pecan/.