Pecan Pie in Peril: Nut Fungus on the Rise

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Chipley- Mom's pecan pie may be missing from this year's Thanksgiving feast.

"Because we've had a wet humid year with cool night time temperatures, that gives you a ripe time for a disease called, pecan scab" explained Washington County Horticulture Agent, Matthew Orwat.

The fungus starts in the soil then moves it's way up the tree- virtually unnoticed.

"You can have your nuts drop early, like in August" Orwat explained. "Or, the worst thing that can happen, you open them up and they're all shriveled up inside."

The fungus causes black spots and holes to appear on the shell. But typically by the time the damage is detected, Orwat said it was usually too late.

He told us the best defense for pecan farmers was to start spraying the trees with a fungicide in April. Orwat also recommended growing strands of pecan trees that were scab resistant.

But for home growers like Sue Carter Jefferson, that's not a likely solution.

"These two trees here, this one and this one, were planted in 1908" Jefferson said, showing us two of the 30 pecan trees at her home. "So they're over 100 years old."

Jefferson told us planting the newer fungus resistant trees wasn't feasible, and neither was spraying.

"It's not [realistic] for me. For the few trees that I have, it's not cost feasible for me to do so because it would require a very expensive pump hitched to a tractor or mobile vehicle" she explained.

For years Jefferson has been selling her pecans from home. We asked how the fungus would affect her pecan season. "Well, I just won't have any nuts to bear" she laughed.

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