By Clint Thompson
Water management is an essential component of pecan production. Growers need to manage their crop’s water needs throughout the production season, starting now, six months away from harvest season.
University of Georgia (UGA) Cooperative Extension pecan specialist Lenny Wells discussed irrigation management during the recent UGA Pecan Beginners Class held on March 28 in Perry, Georgia. Farmers should understand that water needs vary at different stages of the growing season. What is required now varies greatly from what is needed closer to harvest time.
Knowing when and how much irrigation to apply will save farmers money and water, while producing a more efficient crop in the fall. The crop’s water needs are most important during the late summer and early fall.
“The peak water demand on pecans is August and September when they’re trying to fill their kernels,” Wells said. “The water demand starts at budbreak, and it’s fairly minimal at that time. It builds up slowly as the season progresses. You get a little spurt, an increase in water demand, when we get to June and the nut starts to size. Then you get a really big increase in water demand during kernel filling. Kernel filling is a really high energy process for the trees. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of water to make that happen.
“We’re at 100% of our capacity with irrigation systems from mid-August to mid-September. Through the rest of the season, it’s just a fraction of that. Like we’ll start between 15% and 20% when we start this time of year. Then maybe June or July we’re at 40% or 45%. Mid-August is when we really ramp it up.”