The 2021 growing season wasn’t particularly easy on Georgia pecan orchards. The crop started late and short. Weather and disease pushed it shorter.
“Every crop gets shorter as the season progresses, but when the season starts out with a limited crop as we saw this year, that crop gets shorter quickly,” says Lenny Wells in mid-November.
Given how things have played out in 2021, the University of Georgia Extension pecan specialist now says total production for the leading pecan-state likely won’t be more than 60 million pounds. As harvest progresses, that prediction may fall below 50 million pounds for the first time in 15 years.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Wells writes a good, all-things-pecan blog at UGA Pecan Extension.
An erratic cool spring delayed the trees’ budbreak and hindered foliage growth, he said, tapping the brakes on flowering and crop development by 10 days or more, which may have caused some pollination problems.
“Following crop set in early summer, I noticed throughout the state, young orchards, or 30 years and under, appeared to have a pretty good crop, while most older orchards appeared very light to almost blank,” he said.
According to the Nov. 14 USDA Crop Progress and Condition Report, Georgia’s pecan harvest was about 40% complete. The five-year average for the same timeframe is closer to 60% complete harvest.
As of mid-November, he said, many growers say they “are ending up with about 30% of a normal crop from harvested orchards of mid-season varieties, which make up a large percentage of Georgia’s orchards.”
He said some growers plan to hold harvest until a freeze, which can help remaining nuts open and cut cost by harvesting through an orchard once.
Rainfall and cloudy days seemed to cause the most issue for growers. Scab pressure was high as it’s been in more than a decade. But growers, he said, “did an excellent job of minimizing the damage” from pecan’s leading disease.
“A bigger issue for the 2021 season that came with the frequent rainfall was the extended periods of cloudy weather,” he said, which reduce solar radiation throughout the growing season
The event that seems to have caused the greatest damage across the state occurred over a seven-day period between Sept. 16 and Sept. 22.
“I mined weather data from various UGA weather stations across the state and found at all locations examined during this seven-day period solar radiation was half of what it should have been during that time. This occurred at a critical juncture in nut development,” he said.
Early maturity varieties, like Pawnee and Elliott, he said, dodged the solar radiation deficit because they had largely finished filling before the extended cloudy weather in mid-September.
“The mid-season varieties seem to have suffered most on trees that had a heavy crop load,” he said.