A one-year-old pecan tree has gray and brown edges that signals salt injury after being grown in salinity conditions.

Intensive cultivation in saline soil conditions

Over about six years now and the successful planting of 406 pecan seedlings of seven different cultivars at our University of Arizona Safford Agricultural Center, I am encouraged and enlightened by the observations and results so far that have come out of the research project. More pecan producers than just Arizona producers contend with the...

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A hedger travels down a row of mature pecan trees during dormancy and saws off the top part of the trees.

Plant hormones’ post-pruning balancing act

At the Arizona Pecan Growers Association’s Conference at the end of August, three local producers gathered for a “Grower’s Panel,” during which they explained their hedging and pruning programs. These producers used video and PowerPoint slides to further expound on their discussion. I remember one of the producers mentioned, “The pecan trees get used to...

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The North 19E plot, eastside of R4-2, flooded with water during the on-farm recharge.

On-Farm Recharge on orchard replenishes groundwater

On-farm recharge is the application of available surface water to farmlands during wet years to recharge and store water in underlying aquifers for future use. Pecan orchards are especially suited to on-farm recharge because pecans are a facultative upland species able to tolerate saturated soils post-dormancy. We conducted an on-farm recharge (OFR) demonstration study on...

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A graphic showing the different essential elements in pecan in their chemical abbreviations.

Essential elements in pecan

In the early 20th century, scientists Daniel Arnon and Perry Stout, through the inspiration and guidance of the renowned laboratory of plant nutrition founded by Dr. Hoagland at the University of California Berkley, determined the criteria that would ultimately ascertain if an inorganic mineral was required within a plant to be deemed an “essential element.”...

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Irrigation water runs between two rows of pecan trees. Trees water demand increases as the season advances.

The Downsides of Overwatering Pecans

When it comes to irrigation scheduling, we tend to talk most often about how important it is to make sure that irrigation water is applied in sufficient volumes and frequently enough to meet the consumptive demand or evapotranspiration (“ET”) of our pecan orchards. And there is no doubt that that is a really big deal!...

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Two rows of mature pecan trees separated by burgeoning cover crop.

Cover Crops—Cover up out there!

I have always wondered how many of us in the pecan industry utilize cover crops. Has there ever been a survey on this topic specifically for pecan production operations? I haven’t found any in my search, but there probably hasn’t ever been a formal one conducted across the entire pecan production belt. I bet if...

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A tree split into a y-shape near the orchard floor. Training young pecan trees is one important winter activity growers should think about after harvest.

Pecan Winter Activities for Western Orchards

After the dusty whirlwind of harvest passes, outsiders may easily think it’s finally time to take a little break from pecan orchard activities. There is a certain amount of truth in that. After all, the trees are dormant. It looks so quiet and peaceful. The constant hum of zinc sprays, irrigation, insect pest control, and...

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Microsprinklers water a tree.

Micro-Irrigation versus Flood Irrigation

Basin flood irrigation remains popular in some of the traditional pecan growing areas of the western region, but increasingly producers are making use of micro-irrigation. Recently I wrote an article in Pecan South about timing your irrigation events if you are using a basin flood irrigation system. In this article here, I will compare and...

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A green stink bug sits on the corner of an inshell pecan as it feeds.

Monitoring Stink Bugs, an Annual Pecan Pest

Stink bugs are serious, annual pests of pecan. Their feeding on developing nuts before shell hardening leads to “black pit” of the embryo and nut abortion. After the shell hardens, damaged nuts remain on the tree and are harvested. Stink bug feeding injury on nuts with hardened shells and mature kernels usually is indicated by...

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Photo by Adult Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus, on a branch.

Pesky Pest, But Not a Threat

Adult Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus. Credit: David Cappaert, Bugwood.org.“Have you seen this before?” A common question that arises in early Spring as buds break and leaves unfold and development ensues. In late May and June, some pecan producers may even encounter nutlets with a tiny hole chewed out of it on one side. I wanted...

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Your Pecan Tree’s Piggy Bank & Water Budgeting

As we move into the 2020 growing season, we should take some time to discuss how to know when to irrigate and how to know how much water to apply—irrigation scheduling. There are several different methods that growers can use to schedule irrigations, some better than others. Some producers may prefer the completely non-scientific approaches,...

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A man grafts a new vaariety to the top of a pecan tree.

Successful Grafts Take a Careful Craft

Successfully grafting is a meticulous process that requires the producer to develop their craft. Before embarking on this mission, one should consider some essential factors when grafting or budding to propagate a pecan tree. Depending on the pecan growing region, orchard design, or planning phase, the pecan producer will choose a rootstock first—based on its...

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A close-up picture of an unpollinated pecan flower after budbreak.

Don’t Forget About Zinc!

As we move into March and the spring weather it brings, here in the West we anticipate the arrival of budbreak and bloom. At this time of year, we’ve been able to finish all the necessary jobs associated with dormancy. Trees have been hedged and topped, necessary soil amendments have been applied, and if we’re...

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A young pecan tree with a short trunk that splits off into four branches. By training this tree, growers can help it establish a stable structure.

Training Pecan Trees, Setting Some Limits

From the words of late Chris Blanchard, creator of the “Farmer to Farmer” podcast and a MOSES Organic Farmer Conference organizer, “Farms are like two-year-olds. They’re very loud and very insistent about what they need and what they want. If you don’t set some limits, you’re going to be a slave to the two-year-old.” If...

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Pecan Trees Prepare to Face Winter Head-On

Winter can be horrible news for plants, even here in the “balmy” Southwest. The days get shorter and sunlight intensity decreases as we approach winter, making photosynthesis tougher and tougher. In addition, plants have no choice but to slow all activities way down as temperatures dip, since the rates of a plant’s metabolic processes are...

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A pecan orchard with a heavy crop before harvest.

Before Harvest, Consider This

November means it’s time for harvest throughout the entire pecan industry. While some growers in the Southeast have been picking nuts for nearly two months, those of us out here in the West are just getting going. ‘Pawnee’ will have been ready for a little bit, while most other varieties are just finishing up and...

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Accurate Diagnosis is Critical

Examine the rows upon rows of mature pecan trees in your orchard. Tall, sturdy with a full canopy, these trees may look close to perfect to an unfamiliar observer. But like with almost everything in life, once we enter the orchard, once we stand beneath the canopy, and once we look close enough at these...

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Challenges and Tricks to Growing Pecans in California

Out here in California, we’re relative newcomers to the pecan industry. There are some smaller plantings that were planted in the late ‘50s and ‘60s, but most of the commercial plantings didn’t start going in until the mid-1970s. And the state’s largest orchard wasn’t planted until 1980. With that being the case, we’ve had the...

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A row of trees have clusters of yellowed leaves.

Iron—Essential to Humans and to Pecans

All of us at some point in our attendance at various pecan industry events across the Pecan Belt have heard discussions of essential elements that are required by plants and especially those required to successfully grow pecan trees with relatively optimal yields, even though there may be some differences depending on the region where they’re...

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A adult black pecan aphid and her nymphs sit on the yellow, chlorotic spot that they created on this once green pecan leaf.

Pecan Aphids, Part II: Feeding Biology

In the first of this three-part series on the pecan-feeding aphids (March 2019), I covered how different aphid species distribute on pecan foliage. At the end of that article, we questioned why nymphs of the blackmargined pecan aphid and yellow pecan aphid favor the underside of the pecan leaf, but a proportion of black pecan...

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Microsprinklers water a tree.

June’s the time to get it right!

June is generally accepted as the start of summer. Out in the West, some years feel like summer starts at the end of May and continues through to Halloween. June is also the beginning of the most critical phases of our growing season. We have made it through budbreak and pollination, hopefully without incident, and...

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Catkins on a 'Wichita' pecan tree.

Pecan Flowering: Genesis of the Nut

One thing is for sure, just when you think you have something figured out, nature will turn around and show you differently. In my position thus far, I find myself making recommendations all the time, but I often have to remind myself not to make too specific generalizations for doing things one way across all...

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Logbook entry from 1891 from USDA

Family Trees: Looking back, Going forward

Every grafted pecan tree is full of stories that can be confusing to someone not involved in the pecan industry. I want to tell the origin stories of three cultivars: ‘Western’ (the most important scion cultivar for the western region), ‘Riverside’ (an important rootstock cultivar for the West), and ‘Longfellow’ (which has recently been confirmed...

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hands holding soil

The Soil is Alive

If you eliminate the other environmental factors (i.e., water, light, temperature), it could be agreed that growing an optimum crop with maximum yield potential is ultimately limited by the health and condition of the soil. This is especially true when your crop is a perennial crop like our pecan tree. After all, a healthy soil...

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Reflect, Recognize, Resolve

The end of December is always a time of personal retrospection, looking back on the year to see what went as planned and what didn’t; what was accomplished and what wasn’t. It’s a time to think about ways we did things just right or mistakes we made and how we’re going to make next year...

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An orchard in Arizona during the fall.

Colors of Fall, Colors of Health

Before I get into writing on another topic in pecans here, I want to take a moment and extend my deepest sympathy to our pecan friends who may have been injured or even worse affected by Hurricane Michael that swept through the lower southeastern pecan production region last month. One thing for sure, we all...

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No Holding Back, Good ‘Ole H20

Let’s face it. Fruiting is a high-stress event for any tree. If there are other stresses compounding this event, either this year’s fruit quality or next year’s performance will be impacted significantly. As a perennial crop, ultimately what you do this year sets that crop up for success or failure next year. However, there are...

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What’s the Scoop on Nitrogen?

Nitrogen is a “building block” of a vast array of plant biochemicals. To farm pecans successfully, you probably don’t need to know the names of all of these, but you’ve definitely already heard of some of them: – amino acids and proteins: including enzymes that make all of the biological processes in the plant actually...

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Grafting—Some Kind of Magic

In my experiences so far in the pecan industry, I have had the pleasure of meeting many fine folks with some outstanding skills. I just returned from the Western Pecan Growers Conference and added new friends to my contacts. It is fascinating to observe the many diverse skills some of us may acquire along our...

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The cotton square borer -- a fuzzy, green caterpillar -- crawls along a cluster of fruitlets. It has already eaten into several of the fruitlets.

An Unusual Insect: Just a Pest, Not a Threat

There is always “firsts” in the business of Cooperative Extension duties. First time seeing this. first time dealing with that. Back in early to mid-May, just after most catkins were dried up and the pecan female flower pollinated, I experienced a “first” while making farm visits with a certified Pest Control Advisor (PCA) and Certified...

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Transitioning from flood to micro irrigation

Recently I gave a presentation on transitioning to micro-irrigation at the Western Pecan Growers Association conference in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I thought I would present the same information here so that I can expand further on some of these considerations and reach some growers who may have missed the conference but are considering this...

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Mechanical Pruning in the West

It has become abundantly clear in the past 10 years that mechanical topping and siding (hedging or mechanical pruning) is the best method currently available for light management in pecan orchards in the West. People have been experimenting with numerous different strategies for mechanical pruning for a very long time. In particular, I think we...

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The “Other” Micronutrients

It is well known that most pecan orchards, especially out here in the West, require zinc fertilizers for normal leaf expansion, shoot growth, and nut production. And in the past five years or so, most pecan growers have become proficient at spotting the telltale signs of nickel deficiency. But very rarely do they discuss other...

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Stressing Out

No doubt a few of us have experienced firsthand how a “stressful” lifestyle — maybe worries about the economy or the kids — is bad news for our own health. Horticulturists and orchard managers also often speak about minimizing “stress” in our orchards so that we can maximize tree performance (and hopefully lower our own...

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Managing Crowding of Orchards in the West

Pecan trees LOVE the light. That’s really all there is to it. In their native habitat, young pecan trees can rapidly grow to great heights if given a nice patch of sunlight — then once they’ve surpassed all the other surrounding trees in height, they’ve got it made in the sun, so to speak. But...

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Irrigation Scheduling Using Soil Moisture Monitoring

I think just about everyone in the pecan industry already knows that maintaining water status in orchards is of utmost importance for consistently producing top pecan nut yields and top pecan nut quality. When trees become water stressed, photosynthesis slows, shoot growth stops, nuts drop, and the remaining kernels don’t fully fill—all bad things if...

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