Drought’s Impact on Southeast Pecans

Clint ThompsonGeorgia, Pecan

By Clint Thompson

It is never an ideal time for a drought but the current prolonged dry period came at an especially bad time of the season for pecan orchards in Georgia and Alabama. The pecan development is at a time when water consumption is vital to harvests which are a couple of months away.

Lenny Wells, University of Georgia Extension pecan specialist, talked about the current situation facing producers.

“June and July they need good water for sizing the nuts, and then August and early September is when they’re going to fill out the nuts,” Wells said. “Growers need to be on a schedule with the irrigation at this point. We’ve got an Extension bulletin on irrigation scheduling for pecans.

“From month to month it will change, and they need to be going up every month until we get through with kernel filling.”

All of South Georgia has gone from extremely wet conditions in May to extremely dry in June. According to the UGA Automated Weather Network, Tifton, Georgia received 0.79 inches of rain from June 1 to June 20, compared to 5.32 inches last year. Albany, Georgia, was even worse, collecting 0.14 inches of rainfall during that same timeframe, compared to 8.54 inches last year.

A normal irrigation schedule for mature/bearing trees includes a full cycle of 3,600 to 4,000 gallons per acre per day. A drip irrigation schedule for mature/bearing trees includes 36% of that cycle during June and 45% during July. It increases to 100% in August and September.

Wells also recommends that if orchards receive 1 inch of rain from April to mid-August, growers should turn off the irrigation for three days and resume the schedule again.