Back to March 2018

Pecan Management Calendar for 2018

George Ray McEachern returns with his annual Pecan Calendar, giving his advice on best orchard management.

George Ray McEachern answers questions at the 2018 Pecan South Course, while showing visiting growers around the Texas A&M Orchard. (Photo by Catherine Clark)

As pecan growers enter the 2018 pecan year, it is good to outline management practices and develop plans for the entire calendar year. Growers can use different types of management—establishment management, low versus moderate versus intensive orchard management, and native grove management.

Texas production is in an alternate bearing cycle with 2018 being the “on” year. Thus far the winter has been exceptionally cold, College Station has received more chilling hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit than any winter in 40 years. We have had one good rain in January and should enter the year with good soil moisture. By early May, we will know the size of the current 2018 crop and it should be large for the entire state of Texas; once one knows their crop size they can then, and only then, determine the level of management needed for the year. Maximum tree health is always our number one concern. Here is my list of potential management options for the rest of 2018, starting with this month.


Few 2017 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 2017-18 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 January or February.

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


At budbreak begin biweekly foliar zinc and nitrogen 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 ensure 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 and nitrogen on mature bearing trees beginning at budbreak. 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 which had a heavy crop in 2017 with 25 pounds of nitrogen per acre in the fourth week of April.

Do not fertilize trees which had low or no crop in 2017.

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

On young trees irrigate weekly if no rains occur. Do not saturate the soil.

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

If frequent rains occur, spray with fungicide on bearing trees to prevent scab growth on leaves.

Heavy scab in August 2017 means spore 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. And 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.


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

Train young trees to only one trunk; with “V” trunks, remove one and 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 at ( and the PECAN IPM PIPE website (

Monitor pecan nut casebearer pheromone traps daily to determine when to observe eggs.

Record and plot all casebearer counts to determine if 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 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 which have clusters. Three of 10 is a low crop; five of 10 is a good crop, and if seven of 10 shoots have clusters the crop is heavy. Crops of 7-10 will need to be thinned by trunk shaking in July or early August. Some growers may use May casebearer feeding to reduce corps with nine or 10 cluster loads.

Fertilize bearing trees with second application of nitrogen at a 25-pounds of nitrogen for heavy 2015 crop trees or the first application for moderate current season crop trees.

Zinc and nitrogen foliar sprays continued every 14 days on young trees growing fast; no for slow trees.

Zinc and nitrogen foliar sprays continued for bearing trees as per schedule listed in April above.

Spray for pecan nut casebearer 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. Must keep records of sprays.

Spray second herbicide strip down tree row when weeds are 3 to 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.


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

Spray fifth foliar zinc and nitrogen 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 the 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 per acre if crop is good or heavy. If new shoot growth (called overgrowth) occurs at the cluster, too much nitrogen has been applied.

Irrigate weekly if no rain occurs to increase final nut size on bearing trees.

Irrigate weekly on young trees with double the rate of April. 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 = mod, 4 = heavy, and 5 = total loss. In

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

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

With no rain, irrigate bearing trees at full potential, but do not saturate the soil. Apply 1 inch a week.

Record weekly rainfall, crop size, and all sprays.


Late July through September is “the critical management” period for bearing trees and water is the key to success. 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 five or more terminals.

Nut thinning by trunk shaking in late July is essential to reduce crop when 7 to 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, set and crop is better.

Fertilizer must not be applied to young trees to prevent early winter freeze injury.

Fertilize bearing trees with fourth application of nitrogen at 15 pounds per acre if crop is good or heavy.

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

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

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

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

Consider attending the Texas Pecan Growers Association‘s annual Conference and Trade Show.



Avoid stress on bearing trees.

Continue to nut thin all trees with a heavy crop if not in July.

Apply 15 pounds of nitrogen per acre to trees with heavy crop.

Irrigate weekly at max rate without saturation.

Control all weeds which use water and nitrogen.

Plan to removed or hedge crowded trees in January and February 2018.

Monitor for shuck worm, stink bug, and black aphid; spray only as needed.

Remember terminal leaf dieback can be an issue with constant rains.

Weevil traps need to be in place early in August and monitor and spray as needed. If heavy emergence occurs, spray to protect nuts in the gel-dough stage if needed. 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.


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 a fast start at shuck split.

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

Subscribe to “The Pecan Newsletter” from Pecan South for weekly crop, harvest and market reports.

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

Record weekly rainfall and shuck split dates for each variety and 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.

Keep records of rainfall, shuck split and harvest dates.


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; two shakes will be needed for the entire crop; all nuts of improved varieties need to be harvested in eight 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 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 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 best price.

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


Work as fast and long as possible to beat rains which make harvest arduous work.

Harvest, clean, dry, sanitize, crack, shell, and market by variety for best price and sale.

Sanitize nuts in 200ppm Clorox solution (1 tbsp./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.

In his calendar, George Ray McEachern recommends hedging and pruning after harvest. Workers at Kern orchard in California hedge a row of trees post-harvest. (Photo by Blair Krebs)


Finish harvest as soon 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.


All pecan orchard operations can vary according to the 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 Larry Stein, Ph.D., high-performance varieties such as ‘Pawnee’, ‘Wichita,’ ‘Cheyenne,’ ‘Kiowa,’ ‘Choctaw,’ ‘Kiowa,’ and others demand intensive management. For a variety of reasons, bearing orchards can have 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.