Pecan Growers Meet for Annual Conference

TIFTON, GA – Whether you call them pecans or pee-cans, there is one thing everyone can agree on, they are a delicious, versatile nut that the state of Georgia has specialized in. The entire industry recently gathered in Tifton for the annual Georgia Pecan Growers Conference to check out new equipment and get advice on how to maximize yields. One important suggestion is to pay special attention to your older trees.

Lenny Wells, Pecan Horticulturalist for UGA says, “pecan trees as they age, they get big and old. A lot of times, those big, old trees, while they can still be productive, they have a lot more alternate bearing. With the practice of hedging and hedge pruning those trees, it invigorates the tree, stimulates the tree, and just makes them more consistently productive from one year to the next, and improves the quality as well.”

Even though harvesting season is still far in the future, it’s still a critical time for growers when managing their orchards.

“You know, it’s time to get out there and start burning down those herbicide strips between the rows,” says Wells. “It’s time to start fertilizing, and in a couple of weeks we’ll be spraying fungicides for scab for young trees. Ambrosia beetles are active this time of year, and so you need to be on the lookout for those and treat those if you need to.”

This is an important season for growers, as last year’s crop was significantly cut into by Hurricane Irma.

“We estimated about 30% damage on the crop. That seems to have held up pretty well, you know, with nuts blown down, limbs broken out, trees blown down, and then as we got into harvest we saw some quality issues that were related to the storm when those nuts we beat around up in the tree,” says Wells.

However, there was some good news, as those affected by the storm are now eligible for some government assistance.

“We just heard that the ECP money for help with assistance for clean up through that storm has come through. So, they just need to make sure they get with their FSA offices and fill out all that paperwork they need for that,” says Wells.

One of the biggest issues facing the industry over the past decade has been the lack of marketing, but thanks to the Pecan Federal Marketing Order, that concern is becoming a thing of the past.

Bruce Caris, Vice Chairman of the American Pecan Council says, “we have three pillars. The first one is nutrition and how healthy it is and the good aspects of eating pecans as part of your diet. The second is the heritage. It’s a native nut grown here in the US. And then taste and what a good nut it is just by itself.”

That message is about to go nationwide, as the American Pecan Council is rolling out a new marketing campaign later this month. It’s the culmination of a plan years in the making.

“We’ve been working on this for about 5 years where for 3 years, we went out and really talked with our constituents, the growers, and the processors, and said what’s important to you and what do you think as an industry we need to do,” says Caris. “It just excites me so much because we all know what a great story we have. We have the ability to tell it and be able to roll this out nationally. It’s the most exciting thing in my professional career.”

By: Damon Jones