Georgia is the country’s largest supplier of pecans, sending about 88 million pounds of the buttery sweet nuts across the nation every year. That’s enough to make 176 million pecan pies, according to the University of Georgia.
Those numbers might be much lower this year. Hurricane Irma hammered Georgia’s prized pecan orchards, leading to harsh setbacks for what was expected to be a promising harvest.
Pecan growers have reported “large losses,” according to the Georgia Pecan Growers Association (GPCA), and the goal now is to document as much of the damage as possible.
“Most growers throughout the state report at least some trees blown down in their orchards in numbers ranging from tens to hundreds. Every orchard has limbs broken and a significant percentage of nuts blown off the tree,” said Lenny Wells, a horticulture specialist for pecans at the University of Georgia.
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“Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irma has become the most damaging wind event ever seen by the Georgia pecan industry,” he said in a blog post.
Pecan trees are vulnerable to damage from strong winds and heavy rainfall. The wind can knock down branches and heavy rains can cause disease. “Even if the trees stay upright, the nuts in the tree that are nearing harvest time can be damaged,” according to UGA researchers.
Growers were already wary before the storm hit, reported The Telegraph in Macon. One farmer called seeing the storm approach “like watching a punch coming at you in slow motion.”
Now farmers are mostly focusing on surveying the damage, salvaging what they can and applying for disaster assistance.
“All in all, the Georgia pecan industry has suffered a significant blow but it could have been much worse,” said Wells.
Scott Berson: 706-571-8578, @ScottBersonLE