Drought Helping Ga. Pecan Crop

(AP) The record drought gripping the Southeast isn't all bad news: It's meant nearly perfect weather for growing pecans in Georgia.

The state is on pace to be the nation's top pecan producer this year, with shellers predicting more than 125 million pounds harvested, said pecan horticulturist Lenny Wells of the University of Georgia's agriculture extension.

Georgia was the nation's third-leading pecan producer last year. The nation's two other top producers _ New Mexico and Texas _ are not expected to grow nearly as much, Wells said.

New Mexico's crop is predicted to be about 80 million pounds, and Texas is expected to harvest 73 million pounds, Wells said.

Texas has had heavy rains this year, which encourage disease in pecan crops, Wells said.

This year, Georgia had a spring freeze that destroyed a few orchards close to Augusta, but the drought _ combined with irrigated orchards and some August and September rains _ have been kind to the pecan crop.

The nation produced nearly 189 million pounds of pecans in 2006 in the Pecan Belt _ a 15-state growing region located in the southeastern and southwestern United States. The pecan harvest is expected to begin in late November and will last about six weeks.


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