Back to August 2012

Varieties Worth Considering—Part 1

For some time I have been considering what varieties to plant in some new orchards we are establishing. I have read and studied many of the new releases, and while interesting to me in some cases, long­-term field data is missing on these cultivars.

True performance can only be assessed after the variety is in a production orchard for a minimum of 25 years, in my opinion. Too many new varieties have hit the street only to be thrown in the ditch in a few years, leaving those that have invested several years of time and money in them holding the bag. At my age, I do not have the luxury of 25 years of experimentation, so, for that reason, I revert to selecting those that I have grown and had success with over an extended period of time.

Among those varieties, I count ‘Desirable’, ‘Kiowa’, ‘Creek’, ‘Caddo’, ‘Elliott’ and ‘Stuart’. Follow me as I cover some of the specifics of each variety as I have come to know them. I have not included ‘Wichita’ because of its late-summer fruit-split problem in the East. I have grown it in Texas and, to date, have encountered no variety with the yield potential of ‘Wichita’; so, if you are in an area where it can be produced, I would recommend it.

‘Desirable’: Over the years, it has been the most consistent producer I have known. Not the highest, but the most consistent, and the most consistent in being profitable. Its self-thinning characteristics make it a relatively uniform bearer from year to year. I find it needs fruit thinning only occasionally.

It has fairly thin foliage in comparison to other varieties and will produce weak limb angles (crotches) if not pruned properly as a young tree. It resists yellow and black aphids very well and is not bothered by mites in most years, but will occasionally require treating for any of the insect pests of pecans.

There is generally very little sooty mold on this variety. It will produce a large nut (mid-40 to mid-50 count), a meat yield of 51-53 percent. The color is very good. Good for the gift pack, shelling, and inshell sales. In my opinion, it is the standard that all other nuts should be compared against for overall quality. Harvest is fairly early, occurring in mid-October in Georgia.

Yields are 1,200 to 1,400 pounds-per-acre range on average but have exceeded 2,000 pounds per acre in high-density plantings. It appears to show adaptability to mechanical hedging. Its Achilles heel is susceptibility to scab. It requires a high-maintenance spray program with as little as 10-day spray intervals during periods of constant rains and disease pressure. Despite this, it has always been a profitable variety, even when prices were not so high. I would not plant this variety in areas that are wet, low, subject to fog and heavy dews, or plagued by poor air drainage or heavy soils.

‘Kiowa’: This a variety that was one of the original “Indian” varieties released by Tommy Thompson at the Brownwood USDA station in Texas. It is about the only one of those varieties that seems to be growing in popularity in the East. The tree is very vigorous in its growth habits with heavier foliage than ‘Desirable.’ It does retain the same foliage coloration characteristics as ‘Desirable,’ being a lighter green, almost yellowish in some growth stages.

The nut is very similar to a ‘Desirable,’ tending to be a bit larger than ‘Desirable.’ Color is good but will darken in storage if not handled properly. The variety is very good for immediate shelling after harvest. The novice will find a difficult time distinguishing this nut and tree from a ‘Desirable.’ Like the ‘Desirable,’ it is a consistent bearer but with heavier production than ‘Desirable’.

Over the years, it will require a bit more fruit thinning, which is difficult on this tree. Nuts do not want to come off at the recommended growth stage; consequently, you are liable to see more bark damage on this tree. I wait until the nuts are larger before shaking, so they come off without damage to the tree.

It shares the same insect and sooty mold resistance as ‘Desirable’ but differs in scab susceptibility. It does not scab as easily as ‘Desirable,’ but it will scab under heavy pressure if not sprayed properly. If I have a field of ‘Desirable’ with low or wet areas, ‘Kiowa’ is my choice to interplant with the ‘Desirable’ as it will harvest and ship together.

Nut size is larger, more in the consistent 42-46 count range with meat yields of 56 percent. Harvest is mid-season about the same time as ‘Desirable.’ This tree is more precocious than ‘Desirable’ and more resistant to scab, though not immune. It retains many of the good characteristics of one of its parents, ‘Desirable’ while picking up some scab resistance and size from its other parent, ‘Mahan.’

‘Kiowa’ makes an excellent alternative to ‘Desirable’ or a good pollinator for ‘Desirable’ that can be harvested at the same time. (To be continued next month.)

Author Photo

Tom Stevenson

Tom Stevenson is president of farming operations for National Pecan Co.