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Plan Ahead When Planting Pecan

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Having just finished a full year of working here at the Noble Research Institute, one thing is certain: there is definitely a great interest in pecans. We just had our inaugural pecan-planting workshop, where attendees were able to gain knowledge about planting pecan trees. Presenters gave tips on how to plant, planting locations, tree varieties, weed management and irrigation.

After the lecture portion of the workshop, participants visited Noble's new McMillan property, where we have planted the first 15 acres of our pecan orchard. During the visit, we covered the proper planting methods and allowed hands-on activities for those interested. There will be several other pecan workshops in the future, including a pecan management short course. Keep watching for these opportunities. Here are some highlights from the seminar.

Site Selection
When choosing a site for pecan trees, select a deep, well-drained soil. A perk test can be used to determine internal drainage of the soil. Always remember that access to water is critical when determining the location. Also, test your water to make sure the mineral content is safe for pecan trees.

Check your watering source to determine if the proper quantity is available. Sometimes a large pond is not sufficient for irrigation purposes due to the amount of water needed by pecans. A site visit by an irrigation specialist may be necessary to determine the best irrigation method to implement on your specific site.

Variety Selection
The variety of pecan you select for an orchard will depend on specific management practices. Large varieties of pecans can be used if sufficient water is available. Examples of these varieties include Pawnee, Choctaw and Oconee, to name a few. If sufficient water is not available, it is in your best interest to look at a smaller variety like Kanza, Caddo or Perque. For producers looking for minimal management, a variety resistant to scab is highly recommended. This can greatly decrease the number of sprays required for healthy trees. Some varieties, such as Pawnee, may require thinning of the fruit to reduce the alternate bearing tendency of the tree. It is recommended that at least two varieties be planted to ensure proper pollination.

Orchard Floor Management
One of the most important tasks in a young pecan orchard is control of grass and weeds around the trees. Extensive studies have shown that even one weed around a tree can greatly stunt its growth. It is recommended that an area at least 3 feet in diameter around each tree be vegetation-free. Herbicides and mechanical means can be used to control grass and weeds. Be sure to protect the young, tender tree during applications. Use of growth tubes/tree guards or shields can protect the young tree from damage.

If you are going to plant in spring 2008, you need to start planning now, and order your trees early this summer to guarantee the sizes and varieties you will need. If you have any questions, please contact me by calling (580) 224-6500.