Category Archives: Pecans

2017 Pecan Beginner’s Course

The 2017 Pecan Beginners Course will be held at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center in Tifton. GA on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. There is a registration fee of $10 . Registration at the door will be $15 until we reach capacity of 300 people. Please pre-register so that we will have a head count for the meal. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Register at the following link: Pecan Beginners Course Registration

The program for the course is found below:

9:00        Welcome                                                                                           

9:10        Cost of Pecan Production                                                                            

Lenny Wells, UGA Horticulture

9:30        Pecan Varieties                                                                                                                                               

                Patrick Conner, UGA Horticulture            

10:15     Break

10:45     Pecan Irrigation                                                                               

Lenny Wells, UGA Horticulture

11:15     Pecan Tree Planting & Establishment                                   

Lenny Wells, UGA Horticulture

12:00     Break for Lunch               

                Meal Sponsored by Savage Equipment                                 

1:00        Pecan Insect Management                                                                                                         

Will Hudson, UGA Entomology

1:45        Pecan Fertilization

Lenny Wells, UGA Horticulture

2:30        Break

2:50        Pecan Disease Management

                Jason Brock, UGA Plant Pathology

3:20        Pecan Weed Control

Timothy Grey, UGA Crop & Soil Science

4:00        Pecan Equipment

Lenny Wells, UGA Horticulture

Please contact Debbie Rutland @ 229-386-3424 for further infromation

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What Is The Problem With Late Stuarts?

Everybody is talking about how late the Stuarts are on budbreak this year. UGA Horticularlist Dr. Wells was down with us this morning looking at fertilizer rates, and I asked him about this. This could be an issue if Stuarts miss pollination. Dr. Wells provides this information below:

If you have spent any time in pecan orchards in Georgia over the last couple of weeks you have noticed budbreak progressing on most varieties with one particularly notable exception. At this point Stuart is further behind most other major varieties than I have ever seen it. Why is this? Stuart has a relatively high chilling requirement—more so than many other varieties we grow. This results in later budbreak in general for Stuart. But, following a mild winter such as the one we just had (see previous post on this topic), Stuart’s late budbreak gets even later.

The biggest problem this presents is issues for pollination. Varieties that normally match up well with Stuart, like Cape Fear, Creek, Desirable, and Schley, will likely be finished shedding pollen by the time Stuart pistillate flowers are receptive. Of those, Schley may have the best chance since it is also lagging behind other varieties. If all this does translate in to poor pollination, what does that mean for the Stuart crop?

Stuart is a type II or protogynous (stigma receptivity precedes pollen shed) cultivar. Cross pollination is more important for these cultivars than for type I or protandrous (pollen shed precedes stigma receptivity) cultivars. In Type II cultivars like Stuart there tends to be complete separation of pollen shed and stigma receptivity. This helps them to avoid self pollination (which in nature results in a less fit individual). Although self-pollination is undesirable for nut production as well (it leads to increased fruit abortion and reduced percent kernel), it is better than no pollination which leads to even more fruit abortion and quality problems.

Stuarts have to make up a lot of ground quickly to avoid production problems this year.

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Pecan Irrigation & Early Insects

We are now seeing budbreak on our older trees. UGA Extension Pecan Horticulturalist notes that our budbreak timing is pretty close to last year – thanks to the cooler weather of a couple of weeks ago. Pecans across the state narrowly missed serious damage from the freeze. We won’t know about young trees until May or June. In Thomas County, it doesn’t look like the duration was long enough to have a major effect.

Dr. Wells points out though budbreak has begun, he is concerned that it may be somewhat uneven as a result of the warm winter. This could affect pollination. With the arrival of budbreak, there are other things to keep in mind.


It has been abnormally dry in south Georgia for weeks, and the trees will need water as they wake up. Mature trees should be irrigated at 17-18% of full capacity at this time. Young trees in the 1-3 year old range need about 4 hrs every other day throughout the season beginning now. Rain is in the forecast for Friday so if you receive a 1″ rain or more, turn the irrigation off for 3 days.

Pecan Budmoth Damage- Photo by Dr. Lenny Wells


Be on the lookout for budmoths in young trees. They begin feeding soon after budbreak and can destroy the buds making it difficult to establish a good central leader. Treat with chlorpyrifos, a pyrethroid, Intrepid, or Dimilin as needed.


Phylloxerra damage was particularly severe last year. If you plan to treat for Phylloxerra, do so now for those varieties that have started to break bud. These treatments must be made when budbreak begins or you will miss the window for treating them. Chlorpyrifos or imidacloprid are the materials of choice.

You can read more about Pecan Leaf Phylloxera on this blog post from last year.

Galls from Pecan Leaf Phylloxera

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Pecan Budbreak & Cold Weather

It’s been about two weeks since we observes some budbreak in young pecan trees. We had a day of rain across much of the county this week, and it then dropped to 31 degrees Thursday morning. The picture above is an orchard with frost on the ground. What will happen to our trees now? UGA Extension Horticulturalist Dr. Lenny Wells has this to say:

Those areas with forecasts for 30 degrees or more should be ok. Other areas (North GA) that reach temperatures of 28 degrees or less could see damage to any foliage that may already be out. Fortunately, there is very little of this. I have seen and heard of a little sporadic budbreak here and there—mostly on newly planted or very young trees. Those on which the outer scale has split – and you only see a little green peeking through or the buds are just swollen – should be ok. But, any new growth that has started to lengthen and expand will be most susceptible if temperatures stay at 28 degrees or less for a few hours.

Most mature trees still have buds closed or are barely showing some green (most of this is deep into south Georgia). Those trees on which the buds are still closed should be fine. The level of damage a tree receives in this type of situation is completely dependent upon its level of dormancy.

March 3rd, 2017 – Photo by Mat Thompson

Developing foliage exposed to 28 degrees or less for several hours (usually 3 hours or more) will be burnt off by the freeze. The trees will bud out again, but that will probably wipe out any crop on a mature tree for the year. Since there are not many trees out this far yet, we should be ok. Even those on which we see budbreak only have a small percentage of the shoots breaking bud, so this will help.

The biggest danger will come in the form of cold injury, mostly to younger trees. This damage is usually expressed as longitudinal bark splitting, separation of bark from wood, and sunken areas on trunks, browning of the cambium (the normally bright green tissue normally observed just under the surface of the bark when scraping with a pocket knife), and sparse canopy development. Much of this may not be readily obvious until temperatures heat up in May/June and the water demand increases. The freezing temperatures destroy the cambium cells and the tree then can’t get the water and nutrients it needs. Sometimes the trees may have enough healthy tissue to keep it going for a year or more before it collapses. The more dormant the tree is, the less susceptible it will be. If the sap is rising, there is a risk for cold injury. Trees in low elevation areas will be most susceptible. Any damaged trees will then become more attractive and susceptible to ambrosia beetles, so be vigilant for these as well.

Young Elliot – Photo by Mat Thompson

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Warm Winter And Pecans

UGA Extension Pecan Specialist Dr. Lenny Wells has an update on pecans:

We haven’t had much of a winter this year. We’ve only had 4 days where temperatures dipped below freezing in Tifton and the average temperature since November has been 57 degrees as opposed to 55 degrees last winter. We’ve also accumulated only 368 chill hours as opposed to the 559 chill hours we had by this time last year.

Nursery tree leafing out on 2/21/17 - Photo by Dr. Lenny Wells

Nursery tree leafing out on 2/21/17 – Photo by Dr. Lenny Wells

For many fruit trees, once buds have entered dormancy, they will be tolerant to temperatures below freezing and will not grow in response to mid-winter warm spells. These buds remain dormant until they have accumulated sufficient chilling units (CU) of cold weather. When enough chilling accumulates, the buds are ready to grow in response to warm temperatures. As long as there have been enough CUs the flower and leaf buds develop normally. If the buds do not receive sufficient chilling temperatures during winter to completely release dormancy, trees will develop various physiological symptoms associated with insufficient chilling.

Its really not clear how many chill hours pecans need, probably because there is so much variation from one variety to the next. It is reported that 300 -500 chill hours are required for Desirable, Mahan, Success, and Schley, while Stuart reportedly requires from 600-1000 (I think that’s a little high, myself). Interestingly, Terminal buds have lower chill requirements than lateral buds. So, after a cold winter you may have heavier crop loads because more lateral buds flower and get pollinated at the right time.

In general, pecans don’t need a lot of chill hours. At the southern end of its range in Mexico, you can have trees that receive less than 100 chill hours, and still produce nuts. The actual chilling requirement for pecans also varies with fall temperatures. If trees are exposed to cooler fall temps (less than 34 degrees F) the intensity of the bud’s rest is greater and the number of chill hours required for budbreak increases.   But, the colder the winter, the fewer the heat units in spring required to start budbreak. Heat units in spring strongly influence budbreak and drive the progression of the crop’s maturity. So, with a cold winter and warm spring you can actually get a pretty early budbreak.

We had a warm fall, therefore the intensity of the bud’s rest is weak and the number of winter chill hours required for budbreak will be lower. Indeed if you look around at the edges of fields and in the woods you will see red maples, red buds, and oaks budding out. Azaleas are blooming in the yards. And yes, some pecans are even budding out already as you can see from the pictures above. Unless we have a cool spell to slow things down I expect to see a lot of buds breaking within 2 weeks. What will this mean for the crop?

Well, the main thing is we have to hope and pray for a warm spring with no late freeze. Any late freeze down into the 20’s for any significant length of time after the shoots begin expanding, putting on catkins and female flowers will cause serious problems. The tissue would be burnt off by the freeze. The trees would shoot back out, and grow. We would lose that flower crop and some varieties would try to put on more flowers but most of those secondary flowers either wouldn’t develop into nuts or the nuts would be of very poor quality (because pollination would be off).

Beyond a late freeze, the most likely problem will be poor pollination. Because budbreak tends to be so sporadic, staggered, and non-uniform when you have low chill hours, the synchronization of female flowers with male flowers from the pollinators is usually off, leading to poor nut set and poor quality. The more cold snaps we have from here on out, the more non-uniform budbreak and flower development will be. So, from this point on we need it to stay warm.

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2017 Pecan Spray Guides

2017pecansprayguideUGA Pecan Specialists Dr. Lenny Wells and Jason Brock gave their first of the season program for us in Thomasville yesterday. Dr. Wells updated us on hedging, spacing, and storm damaged trees. Mr. Brock talked to us about our fungicides and resistance issues.

Dr. Wells announced the newest pecan spray guides are now in. Lenny will not have them printed this year, but if you need us to print one for you, we can do that at the office.

Here is the link to the 2017 Commercial Pecan Spray Guide.

UGA Extension Specialist Dr. Lenny Wells presents at the 2017 Pecan Production Update

UGA Extension Specialist Dr. Lenny Wells presents at the 2017 Pecan Production Update

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Ambrosia Beetles: First Flight

Cook County Ag Agent, Tucker Price, called me this week to report seeing the first flight of ambrosia beetles. For us in deep South GA, the first flight is usually late February. UGA Extension Pecan Horticulturalist Dr. Lenny Wells has this information:

Ambrosia Beetle - Photo by Dr. Lenny Wells

Ambrosia Beetle – Photo by Dr. Lenny Wells

We’ve had reports of ambrosia beetles attacking young trees in south GA recently. This is no surprise with the very dry late summer/fall and very mild winter we’ve had.  The severe weather lately will likely make trees more vulnerable than usual where flooding rains and wind have really stressed some orchards. Trees that stand in water for long periods, especially when they are breaking bud and trying to leaf out, are very attractive to the beetles.  Growers should be checking young trees regularly for frass toothpicks that indicate ambrosia beetle attack. It is also a good idea to have some traps out around those young orchards so you will know when the beetles are active. Cold weather will slow or stop the beetle flight temporarily, but we can probably expect to see activity pick back up as soon as warmer temperatures return. See link here for description of management.

Anyone planning to plant trees this year should try to get the trees in the ground no later than mid-February to aid in recovery from transplant shock before budbreak and warm weather arrives. Trees planted late become more stressed and have a harder time recovering from transplant shock.

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