Irma de­stroied es­ti­mated 30 per­cent of Ge­or­gia’s pecan crop

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page - By Clint Thomp­son

Irma’s de­struc­tive path blew through Ge­or­gia’s pecan crop, but the de­struc­tion could have been much worse, ac­cord­ing to Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia Co­op­er­a­tive Ex­ten­sion pecan spe­cial­ist Lenny Wells.

All or­chards ex­pe­ri­enced some dam­age from the storm that moved through Ge­or­gia on Mon­day, Sept. 11. Nuts were blown out of trees, limbs were bro­ken and at least a few trees fell in most or­chards. Mul­ti­ple grow­ers in Ge­or­gia’s Peach and Ber­rien coun­ties lost thou­sands of trees, Wells said.

The storm knocked im­ma­ture pecans to the ground, and Wells be­lieves ap­prox­i­mately 30 per­cent of this year’s crop was lost.

Tift County, Ge­or­gia, pecan farmer Russ Grif­fin es­ti­mates that about 50 per­cent of his crop was lost, not in­clud­ing the 15 trees that fell over due to high winds. He was able to stand them back up but is un­sure whether they’ll sur­vive.

He re­mains en­cour­aged that his crop wasn’t a to­tal loss.

“If (Irma) would have hit as a Cat­e­gory 3 hur­ri­cane like they said to start with, it would have prob­a­bly taken out the ma­jor­ity of the trees. I guess I’m just try­ing to look on the bright side,” Grif­fin said.

Most of Ge­or­gia’s fallen pecan trees were be­tween 5 and 25 years old.

“A lot of these trees that were blown down were just com­ing into good pro­duc­tion, which is a tough loss to take,” Wells said.

This was ex­pected to be a ban­ner year for Ge­or­gia pecans. Wells orig­i­nally be­lieved Ge­or­gia’s pecan crop would top 110 mil­lion pounds, but af­ter Irma, ex­pec­ta­tions are that the yield could be re­duced to as low as 70 to 80 mil­lion pounds.

“It is dis­cour­ag­ing that Irma came on the best crop we ever had, but I guess you’ve got to con­sider it was a good crop to be­gin with, and there’s still a de­cent crop left in the trees,” Grif­fin said.

The ma­jor­ity of green nuts blown to the ground were im­ma­ture pecans that were not har­vestable. ‘Pawnee’ pecans are the only sal­vage­able va­ri­ety as they were sup­posed to be har­vested this week. The va­ri­eties with shucks close to split­ting, like ‘El­liot,’ ‘Mon­ey­maker’ and ‘Creek,’ could pos­si­bly be har­vested and run through a deshucker ma­chine in the clean­ing plant, but farm­ers need to de­ter­mine if that is an eco­nom­i­cally fea­si­ble op­tion, Wells said.

Clint Thomp­son is a news ed­i­tor with the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia Col­lege of Agri­cul­tural and En­vi­ron­men­tal Sciences based in Tifton.

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