The pecan tree Ďcarya illioensis,í is very popular in landscaping and is also known for itís great source of nuts. The pecan tree is a member of the walnut family and is in the hickory group. You will find pecan trees near river and creek bottoms where the soil is deep, fertile, well drained and you will find them in soils that have substantial water-holding capacity. These trees are native to the South and Southeast United States mainly in Oklahoma, Mississippi and Texas. The Pecan tree is also the Texas State tree and is capable growing in all 150 counties in Texas. The nuts are harvested as they fall to the ground from September to December.
In this article I will explain to you how to be a successful pecan tree grower by showing you first, the different ways to establish a tree, secondly, some different varieties of pecan trees, and thirdly, I will describe to you how to care for your new pecan tree.
Since pecan trees will not reproduce directly from seed, growers need grow seedlings by asexual means, which is very easy and quite satisfying. There are three ways to successfully establish a pecan tree: (1) plant the nut directly into the orchard and then topwork the resulting seedlings into your desired cultivar, (2) plant nursery seedling trees and then topwork on the desired cultivar, (3) plant an already grafted tree from the nursery or graft your desired cultivar onto your established rootstock.
Starting With Nuts
Starting pecan trees with nuts is the least expensive but requires the
longest time to grow large enough to produce nuts. Starting trees from
direct planted nuts requires soils with large water availibility, transplanting
nursery trees will not be very sucessful in these areas. The nuts that
you gather should be mature and insect free. The nuts can be directly planted
into the ground in the fall but it is not recommended because of insect
vand rodent damage, it is better to stratify the nuts and then plant them
in the spring. Seedlings will grow fairly slowly the first two to three
years, but will develop a good solid rooting system with in the time period.
Starting With Seedling Trees
Nursery trees come in three types: container grown, bare root and large
tree transplants. When purchasing a tree from a nursery avoid trees that
look like they have been subject to excessive heat, drying or freezing.
Avoid all "bargain buys." Bare root trees are the most common, they can
be difficult to grow and need to be carefully handled. Try to look for
trees that are in between four and eight feet tall. Make sure that when
transplanting them you protect there roots form drying and freezing. Container
grown trees are smaller and can be planted anytime and are less picky than
the bare root trees. Large tree planting is very expensive and requires
really fertile "perfect" soil to grow.
Grafting Desired Varieties
Grafting your desired variety is the fastest way to get your pecan tree into production. I will describe three different methods is which you can achieve different varieties onto your original rootstock: (1) bark grafting, (2) patch budding, (3) whip and tongue grafting.
(1) Bark Grafting: By grafting a shoot containing buds from your desirable tree you can turn a tree that is not very productive into a tree that with in a short time will be bearing a heavy load of nuts. This type of grafting technique involves cutting off most of top of the original tree and then grafting on the new desirable graft wood and watching the tree produce and new top. First saw off the limb of your tree straight across. Second, cut a slit into the bark on the rootstock that is big enough to accomadate your scion. Choose a scion that is cut straight and contains no more than 2 or 3 buds on it. Thirdly, line up the two cambiums of the rootstock and the scion making sure that it is a smooth fit. Lastly wrap up the exposed area with tape and then place a poly bag over the top of it to keep moisture in. With in about three weeks a sucessful graft will begin its growth. Make sure to properly care for your newly grafted bark graft.
(2) Patch Budding: Patch budding is very effective on smaller tree branches with a diameter of 3/8 to 1 ½ inch. This type of propagation is used in the early spring to late summer. Budwood is collected the previous year and is kept dormant in a cold storage until spring when it is used. A good way to get your budwood to "slip" easier is to remove it from your cold strorage 4 to 5 days prior to your usage. Make a double cut in the budwood, raise the piece off and place the desireable bud into the place, which has just been cut. Wrap and seal the bud with plastic budding tape allowing the bud to stick out. With in about 2 to 3 weeks you will start seeing your results. Make sure to remove the wrappings if they do not fall off when the wound has healed.
(3) Whip And Tongue Graft: Also known as the splice and tongue graft, this type of propagation is well adapted to small seedling pecan trees or branches of larger developed trees. The most effective time for this graft is from February to April before the growing season begins. Use a dormant scion that is the same diameter as the rootstock is which you are applying on. A preferable size would be 3/8 or ¾ inch in diameter. Each scion should contain no more than two or three buds and be about six inches long. First step is to make a sloping, straight cut in both the scion and the rootstock. The face of the cut should be about two to three inches long. To make the "tongue," cut about 1/3 of an inch from the tip and press the knife slowly downward about 2/3 the length of the bevel cut. Slide the scion and the rootstock together lining the cambium layers up, cuts that are made perfect will appear as one. Wrap the connection tightly with special grafting tape. In a few weeks if your graft took there will be visible growth at the end of your tree. Remember to keep a good eye on your graft and remove native sprouts and remove the take after the graft is complete.
Patch Budding Whip and Tongue
Varieties of Pecan Trees
The over all goal of picking a pecan tree is looking for a variety that has good disease resistance. I will name and describe a few varieties from both Mississippi and from Texas.
-Cape fear- this variety has bright kernels and a very high productivity rate. It is scab resistant but is susceptible to severe leaf scorch.
-Forkert- produces a high-quality nut with a high percent kernel weight. The nut is thin-shelled and is good for production. Forkert is susceptible to scab and is a very good home pecan.
-Owens-has large, well-defined nuts and moderate production. These nuts are thick shelled and the tree is scab resistant and has done well all through out Mississippi.
-Desirable-this variety is found in humid areas in east and south Texas. The tree grows fast and requires 8 to 10 years of bear nuts. It has a weak V limb angles and requires adequate training. Desirable is not a heavy bearer of nuts, but is an older tree that produce good high quality pecans.
-Western-can grow and bear nuts with less management than any other variety in the far west. This tree is strong, easy to train and is productive. Very susceptible to scab disease and should be only grown in western Texas.
-Sioux-is an outstanding yard tree because it is strong, easy to train limbs and it has a very high-quality small nut. It is moderately scab resistant and should be sprayed with a fungicide spray.
-Wichita- is the most productive pecan grown in Texas and is well adapted to central and west Texas. It has a serious scab problem in humid areas and will freeze in the north.
Vigorous production occurs in only 5-7 years. This variety also develops
the V limb angle and will split if not trained properly.
How To Care For Your Newly Propagated Pecan Tree
Spacing: Pecan trees can grow into large trees with massive root systems. Spacing them is very important in having successful growth. Trees should be planted no closer than 35 feet. Trees that are close develop unattractive shapes and as crowding occurs nut production decreases.
Training and Shaping: Grafted pecan trees need to be trained in order to develop a single trunk with a wide-angle branch. If you donít properly train your tree weak narrow "V" limbs can form. These narrow weak crotches can split to heavy nut production or just by the weight of ice. Young trees grow fast and it is very important to remove external leaders and do a little heading back.
Irrigation: Watering properly is essential for the survival of pecan trees. Trees should be watered immediately after transplanting. Water at least every week for the first two months after you see growth. Water just enough to keep the soils moist.
Now that you know how to be a successful pecan tree grower, go out and
give it a shot, itís not as tough as you probably thought is was.
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Lipe, John. "Home Fruit Production-Pecans." World Wide Web.
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/homefruit/pecan/html Extension/homefruit/pecan/html. 15 Apr. 1999.
Herrera, Esteban. "Caring for Pecan Trees After Transplanting." World Wide Web. http://www.cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h/h-646.html. 17 Apr. 1999.
Trait, Nichola. "The Pecan Tree." World Wide Web. http://www.ortech-engr.com/pecans/tree.html 17 Apr. 1999.