Growers who are anxious to buy large quantities of the newest pecan cultivar, ‘Avalon,’ will likely be disappointed as supplies are low, according to University of Georgia pecan breeder Patrick Conner. The new UGA-bred cultivar will be released this spring.
Conner is currently using graft wood from certified, nontopworked trees (those grafted in nursery) to produce Avalon trees. Conner has to see the flowers and nuts of a tree to identify them as being ‘Avalon’ before certifying the tree as a source of graft wood.
“That requires you to grow them until they’re 4 or 5 years old, when they flower and fruit. At that point, I can look at them and certify them as true-to-type. Then we can use that wood to produce more trees in the nursery,” he said.
A limited number of trees have been certified. In a few years, enough graft wood will be available to produce enough trees to meet demand, Conner said.
‘Avalon’ is the first pecan cultivar released by Conner. The cultivar shows strong resistance to pecan scab disease, which is the biggest limiting factor to pecan production in south Georgia. ‘Avalon’ exhibited no signs of scab in sprayed orchards and limited traces of scab in unsprayed orchards during research trials on the UGA Tifton campus.
‘Avalon’ is patented by UGA, and four Georgia nurseries are licensed to sell the trees. Conner expects demand for ‘Avalon’ trees to be high because it produces a bigger nut and has shown high resistance to pecan scab.
“I really expect it to be quite popular. It’s an easy-to-grow cultivar. It doesn’t seem to have any strong flaws that have to be managed. I think it’s something that can work for a large number of growers, those who have limited acreage as well as those who have large acreage,” Conner said.
Growers will only have to apply chemicals a couple of times a year with ‘Avalon,’ Conner said. In extremely wet years, producers can spray susceptible cultivars upwards of 20 times to counter scab disease, which thrives on moisture.
“Even with full spray coverage on ‘Desirable’ trees, in a really wet year, you could still get severe damage and crop loss,” Conner said. “’Avalon’ gives you some assurance during a really wet year.”
Pecan production has increased dramatically in Georgia over the past decade. An estimated 20,000 to 25,000 new pecan acres have been planted in Georgia over the past five years, according to a recent survey by UGA Cooperative Extension.
UGA will host a daylong “Beginners Pecan Production Course” on Tuesday, April 18, at the Tifton Campus Conference Center in Tifton, Georgia. Attendees can learn more about the ‘Avalon’ cultivar and find out about other factors that impact pecan production. Those interested can register at http://bit.ly/2nKhLV9.
Pecans are a high-value crop for Georgia growers. Pecans were worth more than $361 million in farm gate value in 2015, according to the 2015 Georgia Farm Gate Value Report released by the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.
(Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.)