When it comes to pecans, timing, as they say, is everything.

The earlier a fresh crop of nuts can hit the market, the more potential profits growers can harvest.

An Agricultural Research Service variety known as Pawnee has been a top seller since its release in 1984, because it is ready for sale by the first part of October, according to Tommy Thompson, an ARS pecan breeder and geneticist at the agency's Crop Germplasm Research Unit in College Station, Texas.

But a new cultivar, Mandan, is even earlier than Pawnee, maturing about a week before, according to a news release.

Thompson also is releasing Apalachee, a small pecan bred for baking and manufacturing.

But he expects Mandan to be more widely distributed because of its early maturity, nut size and ability to resist scab, a fungal pathogen that blackens nuts and can severely damage trees.

Growers in Georgia sometimes spray fungicides up to 15 times a year to control scab.

The new releases are the result of intensive testing that began in the 1980s, when clones were evaluated in greenhouses and planted in orchards for 10 years of screening.

Selections that performed best were planted in orchards throughout the Pecan Belt for further evaluations.