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Routing Pecan Scab -- Protecting a Popular Nut

Inspecting greenhouse plants for pecan scab damage.
Horticulturist Bruce Wood (left) and plant pathologist Charles Reilly inspect greenhouse plants for pecan scab damage.

Sweet, tasty pecans remain one of the most popular foods native to North America. Last year, U.S. consumers ate 134 million pounds of them.

But this staple of pies and ice cream and other confections faces a tiny, yet powerful enemy: pecan scab disease. If unstopped, the fungus can destroy a crop, forcing food companies to import pecans to meet demand.

Agricultural Research Service scientists Bruce W. Wood and Charles C. Reilly are doing their part to ensure that consumers have an adequate supply of pecans. Wood, a horticulturist, and Reilly, a plant pathologist, work at the ARS Southeastern Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory in Byron, Georgia. There, they are developing new strategies to combat pecan scab and protect this native nut crop.

Wood, who heads the Byron lab, says two of the main advances leading to the U.S. pecan industry's success have been the introduction of fungicides and airblast spray technology for quickly and effectively dispersing pesticides throughout an orchard.

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