It appears pecan lovers can expect to pay more for their treasured treat.
Record soggy weather in many parts of the Southeastern US has left pecan orchards vulnerable to Cladosporium caryigenum, more commonly known as scab, a fungal disease that scars the husks of pecans, cuts yield and hurts quality.
“We’ve had some wet years before, but not like it has been this summer where it has rained all summer long,” Tom Stevenson, a south Georgia-based pecan orchard manager, told Southeast Farm Press.
The heavy rains which have only abated in the past couple of weeks, hit Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas – among the nation’s main pecan-growing states – particularly hard.
Georgia, the top producer of pecans nationwide, has half of its approximately 150,000 acres of commercial orchards planted in pecan varieties that are susceptible to scab, according to Lenny Wells, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension pecan specialist.
To try to reduce the risk of scab, farmers such as Stevenson have increased spraying of fungicide, according to Southeast Farm Press.
“Some growers, Wells said, sprayed upwards of 20 times to try and stay ahead of the disease this summer,” according to the publication. “If more than 25 percent of a pecan shuck is covered in scab, there will be losses.
“But when it hits a small, developing nut early, and if it is not managed or can’t be managed on a timely schedule, the nut turns black and falls,” it added.
Scab statewide is the worst it has been in a decade, according to Wells, adding in some locations it is worse.
This spring, expectations were that Georgia’s pecan crop would come in at around 80 million to 90 million pounds.
But between the rainy weather and scab problems, potential statewide production likely will fall to between 65 million and 70 million pounds, according to Wells.
That means consumers will pay more for the beloved nut, whether they buy them at the grocery store or the roadside stand.
(Top: Pecan orchard showing standing water after a hard rain.)