Heavy rainfall during the summer opened the door to disease and helped to drastically lower individual size and quantity of pecans produced in Georgia this year.

The increased moisture throughout the state during June, July and August led to increased cases of pecan scab disease, a fungal pathogen that thrives in environments conducive to high moisture. Scab can reduce the quality and size of pecans, and in some cases, kill the nuts.

“If you go from about Ashburn south, it’s actually fairly bad with scab on susceptible varieties. If you go north from there, it’s not quite as bad, but we will see some losses state-wide” said Lenny Wells, an Extension pecan horticulturist with the University of Georgia.

One of the most vulnerable varieties is the most common — Desirable. According to Wells, a large percentage of commercial orchards are planted in Desirables. However, Desirables are very susceptible to scab, as are orchards that are more likely to hold moisture, such as those in low-lying areas.

“We’ve had growers who have sprayed more than they ever have for scab this year. We were seeing growers who sprayed 20 times or more this year just for scab, and that’s about twice as much as normal,” Wells said. “They’re still suffering some losses from scab.”

More cases of scab result in a sharp decrease in pecan production.

“When this growing season first started, it looked like (the state) had the potential for around 90 million pounds or so. I’d say now that’s probably down to 65 or 70 million pounds,” Wells said. “That’s a big drop-off.”

In each of the last two years, the total poundage for pecans exceeded 100 million.