- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2016

Despite Hurricane Matthew’s major damage to pecan orchards in southeastern Georgia, the state could have a good crop, University of Georgia experts say.

Georgia produces about one-third of the U.S. pecan crop, harvesting from October through December. Matthew swept through Oct. 7-10.

The biggest production areas are in central Georgia, around Albany and Fort Valley, UGA Extension pecan expert Lenny Wells said in an interview Friday.

“And more and more, really, it’s throughout the state,” leaving Georgia much less vulnerable to damage in any specific area, he said.

Both Albany and Fort Valley are more than 100 miles from the hard-hit counties, which are along a line from Appling and Tattnal counties to Screven County.

“We hear that pretty much any orchard you go to there on the eastern edge, 10 to 30 percent of the trees are down and probably 30 percent of the crop are just green nuts blown out of the tree,” Wells said.

Even the good nuts cannot be harvested because so many trees are down, Wade Parker, agriculture and natural resources program development coordinator for the extension service’s southeast district, said in a news release Friday.

Farmers can get cleanup money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

But the damage will continue. Parker estimated that big trees more than 50 years old suffered the worst damage.

“The trees that blew over represent a long-term loss for a lot of growers. It can take anywhere from 10 to 12 years to bring planted trees back into production,” Tattnall County agent Chris Tyson said in the news release.

However, outside of the hurricane-stricken area, the crop could be one of Georgia’s best in years, Wells said.

“I feel like we’ll still be over 100 million pounds for Georgia. But that’s kind of a guesstimate,” he said.

Over the past five years, he said, Georgia’s pecan crops have ranged from about 85 million to 100 million pounds a year.

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