Business & Economy Georgia Impact

Georgia is the proud pecan capital of the U.S.

Pecans go through a cleaner on the UGA Tifton campus. (UGA file photo)

This healthy nut is a key part of the state’s agriculture

Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, can play a role in lowering cholesterol and can aid in weight loss, according to the Georgia Pecan Growers Association.

“We love sharing the nutritional impact of pecans because most people aren’t aware of how high our nut registers in antioxidant values,” said Samantha McLeod, executive director of the Georgia Pecan Growers Association. “It fits so well in healthy diets, such as kosher, gluten-free, keto, vegetarian and vegan, to name a few, due to its protein level and ‘good fats’ ratio. Georgia pecans are packed with vitamins and minerals so you can feel good about choosing them as a stand-alone snack and as a healthy choice to add to recipes, both sweet and savory.”

Lenny Wells, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension pecan specialist, wrote an entire book on the nut – “Pecan: America’s Native Nut Tree” – which touts its nutritional benefits.

Pecan harvest on the UGA Tifton campus. (UGA file photo)

Georgia is the top pecan-producing state in the U.S., with more than 170,000 acres planted in pecan trees. But the state’s pecan production may drop this year due to Hurricane Michael’s impact in October 2018.

Georgia lost an estimated 200,000 trees, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wells hopes farmers in southwest Georgia will see a silver lining in this natural disaster and replace the older, disease-susceptible trees they lost with disease-resistant varieties, such as “Avalon,” “Creek,” “Ellis,” “Oconee” or “Zinner.”

UGA pecan breeder Patrick Conner released “Avalon” in 2016. It is comparable to the popular “Desirable” variety with a large nut size but is not as vulnerable to scab disease, which can cause leaf loss and produce black lesions on the pecan shucks any time during the season.

Pecan harvest on the UGA Tifton campus (UGA file photo)

Disease-resistant varieties will provide Georgia producers more long-term sustainability while keeping the supply chain abundant for local, national and international consumers.

“It’s still going to take time to get to the point where planting those new varieties are going to help, but the hurricane did force these farmers to rethink their production strategies moving forward,” Wells said.

For pecan recipe ideas, visit the Georgia Pecan Growers Association.

For up-to-date information about Georgia pecan production, visit the UGA Extension site.