Back to March 2017

2017 Pecan Calendar for Texas


As pecan growers enter the 2017 pecan year it is good to outline management practices and develop plans. Growers can use different types of management: establishment management, low vs moderate vs intensive orchard management, and native grove management.

Texas production is in an alternate bearing cycle with 2017 being the “on” year, which means two “on” years in a row because the 2016 crop was much shorter than expected for an “on” year. Thus far the winter has been exceptionally warm. College Station has only received 260 hours of winter chilling below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. However, we had two nights that were in the high teens; but we still need more cool weather.

We have had two good rains in January and should enter the year with great soil moisture. By early May, we will know the size of the current 2017 crop and determine the level of management needed for this year. Maximum tree health is always our number one concern. Here is a list of potential management options for 2017.

January / February

Collect and store graftwood while fully dormant, store at 45 degrees F in poly bags until April and May.

Prices for 2016 nuts of high quality remain good for improved and native pecans.

Drain or blow water out of all irrigation lines above ground, to prevent freeze.

Participate in A&M Pecan Shortcourse Jan. 23 to 26, 2017.

During cold days, clean the shop, barn, equipment, winterize sprayers and irrigation, etc.

Prune all “V” trunks to one trunk on small and medium size trees to prevent blowout or split trunks.

During very cold days, work on 2016 records and IRS data, collecting all expenses.

Prepare soil for new plantings; shoot a base line and rows, planning tree removal in 15 years.

Plant young trees in deep, well-drained soil. Cut back top by one-half, and protect trunk with a Grow Tube.

Select, mark, remove crowded trees as limbs touch; contract for firewood or BBQ wood.

Large orchards may continue to mechanically hedge to prevent crowding, on 4-year cycle.

In young orchards, cut back central leader by one-half on 2-, 3- and 4-year-old trees. In young orchards, thin out long crow’s feet shoots at the end of limbs.

In young orchards, tip prune 2016 shoots over 24 inches long to prevent crow’s feet; do this only once in the life of the young tree.

In young orchards, remove lower limbs when 1-inch diameter or larger on lower 4 feet of trunk. Do not remove small shoots on lower trunk; this “trashy trunk” is ideal.

After care on last year’s grafts; tie or cut back main graft shoot to prevent blow outs. After care on last year’s grafts, remove all suckers below the graft which are within 12 inches of graft.

Contact chemical dealers to make sure pesticides needed are available before first spray.

Keep records of weekly rainfall and temperatures below freezing with dates.

Ice-damaged trees need to be reported to USDA and local government for cleanup help.

Freeze-damaged buds and new bark can be checked with razor blade cross cuts to identify brown (dead)/ white (ok) color of cambium and phloem tissue.

March

Few 2016 pecans will carry over; but if so, keep them frozen or sell before March.

Spray herbicide strip down tree row for older trees to kill winter weeds before bud break.

Spray Roundup strip or circle around young trees, using 24-inch+ Grow Tubes to protect trunks. Plan a Roundup tolerant pigweed treatment with Gramoxone if it develops.

Check irrigation system for freeze damage, and blow out algae in main and lateral lines.

Check tractors and sprayers before the big April and May spray rush. Check sprayer pumps for freeze damage.

Contact chemical and fertilizer dealers again for product availability and best prices.

Winter rains for our 2016-17 dormant season has refilled the soil water-holding capacity. If less winter rains occur by March, irrigate at full potential, but do not saturate the soil.

Grafting begins when bark slips with new growth, using graftwood collected in Jan/Feb.

Keep records of weekly rainfall, freeze dates, and all sprays.

April

At bud break, begin bi-weekly foliar zinc+N sprays on young trees; spray only until wet.

Control weed-free strip in mature orchards with 1 percent Roundup, mowing or cultivation. Calibrate orchard sprayers to insure a minimum of 100 gallons of water per acre and accurate pesticide volume per acre; and record pesticide data in log book.

Clean sprayer filters and nozzle tips every time the sprayer is used.

Spray zinc+N on mature, bearing trees beginning at bud break, repeat in seven days, repeat in seven days, repeat in 14 days, and final zinc spray in 21 days—with a minimum of five zinc sprays.

Fertilize bearing trees that had a heavy crop in 2016, with 25 pounds nitrogen per acre in the fourth week of April. Do not fertilize trees that had low or no crop in 2016.

Use nitrogen on 2-, 3-, 4-year trees when shoots are 3 inches and repeat N at low rate every 2 weeks until June 15.

On young trees, irrigate weekly if no rains occur. Warning: do not saturate the soil.

Grafting begins when bark slips with new growth, using graftwood collected in January/February.

If frequent rains occur, spray with fungicide on bearing trees to prevent scab growth on leaves. Heavy scab in August 2016 means spores will be carried over; be ready to spray if it rains—there will be lesions on new leaflets or leaf midribs. Fungicides are needed immediately. If continued rains occur, spray fungicides for scab prevention on susceptible varieties.

With no rain, irrigate mature trees at full potential; do not saturate the soil; apply 1 inch per week.

Keep records of rainfall, freeze dates, and all sprays.

Record nutlet and catkin pollen release dates. Record freeze date if catkin death occurs.

May

Continue weekly irrigation on young trees; do not saturate the soil with over watering.

Train young trees to only one trunk; with “V” trunks, remove one, keep the best one.

Grafting can continue as long as bark slips.

Keep up to date on pecan nut casebearer via Bill Ree’s reports, and at Pecan ipmPIPE. Monitor pecan nut casebearer pheromone traps daily, to determine when to observe eggs. Record and plot all casebearer counts to determine if a spray is needed. The spray window is 12 to 16 days after the first strong moth catch.

Sample 10 clusters on 32 trees (320 clusters) daily and count casebearer eggs. If two or more clusters have eggs, then 10 percent of the nuts will be infested and lost; therefore spray insecticide.

Determine 2017 crop size for crop load management. Count shoot tips that have clusters. Three of ten is a low crop; five of ten is a good crop. If seven of ten shoots have clusters, the crop is heavy. Crops of 7, 8, 9 or 10 will need to be thinned by trunk shaking in July or early August. Some growers may use May casebearer feeding to reduce crops with 9 or 10 cluster loads.

Crops of 7, 8, 9 or 10 will need to be thinned by trunk shaking in July or early August. Some growers may use May casebearer feeding to reduce crops with nine or ten cluster loads.

Fertilize bearing trees with a second application of nitrogen at a 25 pounds of nitrogen for heavy 2016 crop trees, or apply the first application for a moderate current season crop.

Zinc+Nitrogen (Zinc+N) foliar sprays continue every 14 days on young trees growing fast; not for slow trees. Zinc+N foliar sprays continued for bearing trees as per schedule listed in April above.

Pecan nut casebearer spray only if needed according to sampling and crop size; the spray should cover entire orchard at insect peak for maximum kill. If an extended emergence occurs, two sprays may be needed. You must keep records of sprays.

Spray second herbicide strip down tree row when weeds are 3-6 inches tall; keep records. Roundup-tolerant pigweed may make rapid growth, if so cultivate, use pre-emergence, or use Gramoxone.

Frequent rains require fungicide sprays for scab on susceptible varieties; full coverage is needed.

With no rains, irrigate bearing trees at full potential but do not saturate the soil; apply 1 inch per week. Record weekly rainfall; record crop size by variety (5 of 10 etc.); record all sprays.

June

Continue weekly irrigation on young trees, do not saturate the soil.

Spray fifth foliar zinc+N spray on bearing trees, continue on young trees.

Control weed-free strip with 1 percent Roundup spray, close mowing or cultivation.

Scout for second-generation pecan nut casebearer; spray only if needed as per count and crop load.

Fertilize young trees for last time in the first week of June so that growth stops by September—because stopped growth prevents freeze injury to vigorous shoots in October, November or December.

Fertilize bearing trees with third application of nitrogen at 25 pounds/acre if the crop is good or heavy. If new shoot growth (called overgrowth) occurs at the cluster, too much N has been applied.

Irrigate weekly if no rain occurs to increase final nut size on bearing trees. Irrigate weekly on young trees, with a double rate in April. Warning: do not saturate the soil.

Rains will require fungicide sprays with good coverage on bearing trees. Constant rains will require max fungicide strength and coverage.

Record scab infection rating with 1 = zero, 2 = light, 3 = moderate, 4 = heavy, and 5 = total loss. In 2007 we learned there is varying scab resistance by variety; this needs to be recorded.

Control sod and broadleaf weeds in row middles via mowing or herbicides.

Aphids must be constantly monitored and controlled to prevent honeydew and sooty mold.

With no rain, irrigate bearing trees at full potential but do not saturate the soil; apply 1 inch per week. Record weekly rainfall, crop size, and all sprays.

July

Late July through September is the critical management period for bearing trees and water is the key to success. In 2007 and 2012, rains stopped in early August and drought occurred with low-quality kernels. 2009 had no rain in May, June, July, and August. 2011 and 2012 had no rain in the growing season. Irrigation was essential.

Late season rain helped in 2013 and 2014. In 2015 summer and early fall drought was serious. If no rain occurs, irrigate bearing trees at full potential but do not saturate the soil; increase the irrigation rate to 2 inches per week in July, August, and September. Irrigation is now critical; apply weekly as per soil holding capacity and tree use without saturation. Tree and crop stress must be prevented for the next 60 days.

Late season rain helped in 2013 and 2014. In 2015 summer and early fall, drought was serious. If no rain occurs, irrigate bearing trees at full potential but do not saturate the soil; increase the irrigation rate to 2 inches per week in July, August, and September. Irrigation is now critical; apply weekly as per soil holding capacity and tree use without saturation. Tree and crop stress must be prevented for the next 60 days.

Nut thinning, fertilization and irrigation must be conducted on good and heavy crop trees.

Count shoots for 5 of 10 or more terminals with nuts for thinning, fertilizer, and irrigation rates.

Nut thinning by trunk shaking in late July is essential to reduce crop when 7, 8, 9 or 10 of 10 shoots have clusters. Do not delay trunk shaking because nut removal is easiest early, and kernel filling is better if the crop is reduced early. Next year’s flowering, nut set, and crop is better.

Fertilizer must not be applied to young trees, to prevent early winter freeze injury. Fertilize bearing trees with the fourth application of nitrogen at 15 pounds/acre if the crop is good or heavy.

Irrigation on young trees is now four times the April rate and applied weekly without saturation.

Zinc+N foliar sprays on young trees will be stopped after one application early in July.

Plan to attend TPGA meetings Frisco, Texas on July 9-12, 2017.

Record weekly rainfall, crop load, thinning dates, and sprays.

Collect and have leaf samples analyzed for nutrient content, to evaluate fertilizer and spray program.

August

Avoid stress on bearing trees; continue to nut thin all trees with a heavy crop if not done in July.

Avoid stress on bearing trees; apply 15 pounds N per acre to trees with heavy crop.

Avoid stress on bearing trees; irrigate weekly at max rate without saturation.

Avoid stress on bearing trees; control all weeds, which use water and nitrogen.

Avoid stress on bearing trees; plan to remove or hedge crowded trees in January and February 2018.

Monitor for shuck worm, stink bug and black aphid; and spray only as needed. Terminal leaf dieback can be an issue with constant rains.

Weevil traps need to be in place early in August; monitor and spray as needed. If heavy emergence occurs, spray to protect nuts in the gel-dough stage. With weevil history, be prepared to spray immediately after first heavy rain in August or September.

If a good crop exists, contact your main pecan buyers to let them know what you have.

Keep records of rainfall, crop load, shell hardening, and all sprays.

September

Avoid stress on bearing trees; continue to irrigate weekly for kernel filling and shuck opening. Stop irrigation on young trees to prevent freeze injury from October, November or December major freeze.

Begin cleaning orchard floor in preparation for harvest. Service harvesting and cleaning equipment for fast start at shuck split.

Contact buyers with the estimate of your crop and quality, to determine the prices being paid.

Subscribe to The Pecan Newsletter from TPGA for weekly crop report and prices.

Prepare equipment for crow, squirrel, raccoon management; also plan to prevent human theft.

Record weekly rainfall and shuck split dates for each variety, and the date harvest begins.

Begin harvesting ‘Pawnee’, ‘Caddo’, ‘Kanza’ and other early ripening varieties.

Spray Roundup now for max kill of poison ivy on mature trunks and fence rows.

October

Plan to crack, shell and bag kernels for retail sales at the orchard or contract buyers.

Continue irrigation until shuck split for good opening and fast drop; this is important.

Harvest nuts as soon as shucks split for best early prices; 2 shakes will be needed for the entire crop; all nuts of improved varieties need to be harvested in 8 weeks or before Dec. 7.

Air dry early season nuts to remove water from 20 percent down to 5 percent for light kernel color and price. Kernels should snap when bent. If kernel bends, more drying is needed.

Continue to contact buyers for prices and follow prices in The Pecan Newsletter.

Collect 40-nut samples of each variety for County Pecan Show and learn how to grade nuts.

Grade nuts for sale for the optimum price; record percent kernel, size, and kernel color; record all flaws and do not use their weight in determining data; report flaws to buyers.

Collect nut samples at random to obtain a fair estimate of nut quality.

Guard pecans from human theft; fight crows, squirrels, raccoons, turkey, deer, etc.

Store pecans in a rat proof room or containers with fans to continue drying.

Record weekly rainfall, shuck split and harvest dates for each variety. Record freeze dates.

Record the weight and grade of each variety for sale. Ship samples of nuts to buyers immediately to obtain the best price.

Leaf fall in October is a serious tree health issue; leaves should be healthy until first freeze.

November

Work as fast and long as possible to beat rains, which make harvest very hard work. Harvest, clean, dry, sanitize, crack, shell and market by variety for best price and sale.

Sanitize nuts in 200 ppm Clorox solution (1 tablespoon/gallon water) before cracking.

Market best nuts as kernels for retail sales at the orchard in the holiday season.

Participate in County Pecan Show with county Extension agent.

Stay in constant contact with your buyers to ensure your price and sale.

Record weekly rainfall, shuck split dates, freeze date, and harvest dates for each variety.

Record leaf fall date for each variety.

December

Finish harvest as soon as possible, as rain permits, or by Dec. 7 for ideal holiday prices.

Drain all sprayer pumps and irrigation equipment to prevent freeze damage.

Finalize records for the season while all costs and expenses can be remembered.

Begin tree thinning or hedging immediately after harvest in crowded orchards. Tree crowding when limbs begin to touch must be corrected by tree removal or mechanical tree hedging.

Record weekly rainfall, freeze dates, and harvest dates.

Summary

All pecan orchard operations can vary according to production potential of the soil, water, variety, spacing, climatic region, management skills, financing, tree age, weather, equipment, labor, and more. In addition, young trees grow and bear better than mature trees and are managed differently.

As taught by Dr. Larry Stein, high performance varieties such as ‘Pawnee’, ‘Wichita’, ‘Cheyenne’, ‘Kiowa’, ‘Choctaw’ and others demand intensive management. For a variety of reasons, bearing orchards can have low/minimum, moderate, or intensive management. Therefore, this calendar is only a guide. Each orchard and grower will need to develop a plan specific to their needs and capabilities.

Author Photo

George Ray McEachern

George Ray McEachern is a professor of Horticulture, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas. [email protected]