Pecan conference spotlights new variety, tree insurance and APC
By: Georgia Farm Bureau
4/5/2017 1:47:07 PM
Hot topics at the 52nd Annual Georgia Pecan Growers Association (GPGA) Conference & Trade Show included the introduction of a new pecan variety, an overview of crop insurance the USDA Risk Management Agency is offering to insure pecan trees and a status update of the new American Pecan Council. About 850 people attended the event held March 29 in Tifton.
GPGA President Jeb Barrow announced that the organization is teaming up with the Georgia Pecan Commission to create an e-commerce platform to market Georgia pecans to Chinese consumers who buy large portions of their food on the internet.
"It's not about shipping more pecans into China, but to market Georgia pecan products to our Chinese customers," Barrow said. "This is a pilot program and is a true partnership between the Georgia Pecan Commission and Georgia Pecan Growers Association and the Georgia Department of Agriculture as well."
Barrow encouraged Georgia pecan growers to support the pecan commission during its April referendum and to return their ballots by the April 30 deadline.
Dr. Patrick Conner, research leader of the University of Georgia's pecan breeding program, introduced a new variety of pecan tree - Avalon - that he has spent the last 17 years developing.
"I look at this cultivar as a good Southeastern cultivar that will give growers a chance to plant a cultivar with scab resistance that will give shellers the size and quality nut they want," Conner said.
Avalon, which is a cross between the Gloria Grande and Barton varieties, has been tested for resistance to pecan scab in sprayed orchards in Ray City and Tifton, and unsprayed orchards in Albany, Attapulgus, Tifton and Ray City.
"No one can predict how long a variety will be scab resistant. What I can say is this variety has done 99 percent better at having scab resistance in a variety of environments," Conner said.
Conner said he is also monitoring the variety for susceptibility to black aphids and has found it to rate in the middle when compared to other varieties.
The yield of Avalon increases consistently as the tree matures, Conner said. Eleven-year-old trees had a yield of 92 pounds per tree, Conner said.
"In general the productivity looks good. It seems to be better than Desirable but not as good as Byrd," Conner said.
The kernel rating scale for pecans ranges from 1 to 5 with 1 being the lowest score and 5 being the highest. Conner said Avalon gets a 4.8 because it shells easily and has a standard kernel color that's not too dark or light.
The bud burst date is around April 6, which should make the variety suitable to grow in most regions in Georgia to avoid freeze damage, Conner said.
Dr. Jeanne Lindsey with the USDA Risk Management Agency in Valdosta gave an overview of the new insurance program for pecan trees that is being offered beginning July 1. Pecan growers have until May 15 to purchase the insurance, but orchards must be inspected as part of the application process. Lindsey advised interested growers to contact their crop insurance agents now.
To be insured, trees must be two years old or older. Causes of covered tree loss include wind, ice, flood, fire and freeze damage. Complete details can be found at www.rma.usda.gov.
"This has been a long time coming and a lot of people have wanted this. This is a pilot policy subject to change, so there may be changes next year," Lindsey said. "This tree policy is more complicated than the revenue policy that insures the nut crop."
American Pecan Council (APC) members Trent Mason, of Fort Valley, Larry Willson, of Albany, and Mike Adams, of Texas, gave an update of the federal marketing order for pecans that growers in the 15-state pecan growing region passed last year. The APC has three growing regions - eastern, central and western. Georgia is in the eastern region with Alabama, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Adams, chairman of the council, said the bulk of the funds collected by the council will be used to increase domestic pecan consumption because that is what growers said they wanted the APC to focus on.
"We want pecans to be seen as America's nut that will be recognized as a premium product that commands a premium price based on health, taste, quality and overall experience," Adams said.
Adams said the APC is looking to establish a permanent office in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The APC Governance Committee is interviewing administrative consultants and public relations firms this week to staff the APC office and execute the APC's marketing plan.
The APC began collecting an assessment on the 2016 pecan crop at a rate of 3 cents per inshell pound on improved varieties of pecans, two cents per inshell pound on native, seedling and substandard pecans.
"Without this marketing order we're going to be in a world of hurt if we don't have a home for all the pecans that are going to be produced on the new trees being planted," Mason said.
Georgia is well-represented on the APC. In addition to Mason, who serves on the APC as a grower representative and Willson, who represents shellers, other APC members from Georgia include: Buck Paulk of Ray City and Molly Willis of Albany who also represent growers; and Jeff Worn, of Valdosta, who represents shellers. Mason was elected to serve as APC secretary by the other APC representatives. APC grower alternates are Angie Ellis of Vienna, Randy Hudson of Ocilla and Claire Powell of Bainbridge. Sheller alternates are Brandon Harrell of Camilla and Kenny Tarver of Glennville.
Dr. Lenny Wells, an associate professor and UGA Extension horticulture specialist for pecans, shared his top 10 priorities for pecan production which are in order of importance: 1) water; 2) well-drained soil; 3) sunlight/air flow; 4) nutrition; 5) choosing pecan varieties to grow based on willingness to manage the production issues the variety has; 6) disease/insect management; 7) crop load management; 8) weed management; 9) not overmanaging; and 10) spending time in the orchard.
"Water is the number one priority for growing pecans," Wells said. "Irrigation will do more for your productivity. It provides a 70 percent increase in yield on mature trees and helps immature trees grow. If you have to choose between fertilizer and irrigation, choose water."
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