Things could have been much worse for us in the path of the hurricane/tropical storm last week. We seemed to be above the eye and did not have terribly damaging winds that counties in Southeast GA experienced. Friday morning I rode around and assessed some damage, looking at cotton and pecans. Damage is enough to rate, but could’ve been much worse.
Our pecan crop has more obvious damage with broken limbs and fallen trees. Trees fallen over are mostly between 10 and 15 years old, since their root systems have not completely established. In every orchard, you will see some trees down. We also have many limbs broken and nuts on the ground. Some growers will leave trees on the ground until harvest. UGA Pecan Horticulturalist Dr. Lenny Wells has this advice for pecan growers:
Attempts to save uprooted trees are generally unsuccessful. Trees completely uprooted or blown to the ground should probably not be righted, because of poor survival. If trees are 10–12 years old or younger, or have trunks less than ≈12 inches in diameter, survival rate is usually much better. There is also greater likelihood of recovery from uprooting if the soil is extremely wet when the trees blow down and major roots are unbroken. If major roots are broken, these trees sometimes survive, but they are usually not thrifty and easily uprooted again. Pruning such trees back could aid in their survival.
Experience with these storms indicates that small trees should be righted quickly, before roots exposed to the air are killed. Righting of trees should be done when the soil is wet to prevent further root injury. Such trees will usually remain productive, especially if the canopy is pruned back to balance the loss of roots. Hurricanes and tropical storms often cause trees to lean at various angles. The roots of leaning trees may or may not be pulled out of the ground, but often have sustained some injury. Long-term survival of leaning trees is unpredictable. Some Trees blown over to ≈45° angles have remained productive for at least 20 years without straightening. Still, other trees leaning at small angles died a few years later. Straightening of leaning trees after the tree is dormant tends to be effective only with small trees (i.e., trunks less than ≈12″ diameter). Again, wet soil conditions facilitate survival. Straightened trees usually require support from frames or wires. Subsequent nut yields from such trees are usually good if tree vigor is not noticeably diminished.
Most of our cotton has been blown over and laying close to the ground. Some of the questions have been about will cotton stand back up. While blasting peanuts, some growers who have experienced this before say that it will. UGA Cotton Agronomist Dr. Jared Whitaker talks about how the plants are the heaviest they will be as bolls are still closed. As bolls open, we will lose about half of our weight. This will allow plants to stand back up some. If, however, plants are tangled they won’t have the chance to stand back up. Much of what I saw in our trial is plants fallen over and tangled.