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MEEKS: Growing a pecan orchard at home depends on right cultivars

Pecan trees are commonly found in both rural and urban areas throughout Georgia. Some pecan cultivars are not profitable because of their susceptibility to insects, pests and diseases. In order to successfully produce pecans in the home orchard, low-input management is a must.

Selecting a cultivar is the most important decision for success. There are numerous varieties to choose from, but only a few are suitable for the home orchard because many homeowners are unable to adequately apply pesticides.

Destructive diseases and insect pests are difficult to manage without the aid of costly chemical pesticides and an airblast sprayer. Fortunately, there are scab-resistant varieties that produce high quality nuts. Commonly found cultivars that are recommended for the home orchard are Elliott, Excel, Gloria Grande and Sumner. At least two varieties should be planted to ensure good pollination.

When planting pecan trees, be sure to select a site that is away from buildings and power lines. Trees should be spaced 60 to 80 feet apart so they will not crowd each other when fully mature. Young trees need 10 to 15 gallons of water each week. Fertilizer should not be placed in the hole when planting pecan trees as it may burn the roots.

Pulling a soil sample is the best way to determine fertilizer needs prior to planting.

When caring for pecan trees bearing nuts, water has the most pronounced effect on pecan production. Drought stress affects nut size, nut filling and leaf and shoot growth. Nut sizing usually occurs from June 1 to Aug. 15. Although water is not critical during this stage, serious drought conditions can cause yield loss. The nut filling stage usually occurs from Aug. 15 to the first week in October. Water is most critical during the first two weeks of September. Lack of water will lead to poorly filled nuts, poor nut quality and increased alternate bearing. In some areas of the country, pecan trees have been reported as consuming as much as 350 gallons of water a day.

With nut-bearing trees, fertilizer should be applied in mid to late March.

A soil test will determine your fertilizer needs. Zinc is an important nutrient in pecan production. Zinc needs are best determined by taking a leaf sample in late July or early August.

Backyard orchards seldom develop serious insect problems. The most common insect problems are caused by pecan weevils and aphids. Pecan weevils can be controlled by spraying the trunks with an insecticide containing carbaryl. Aphids can be controlled by applying a systemic insecticide containing imidacloprid to the root-zone.

Disease can severely limit pecan production. The major pecan disease is scab. Pecan scab is small brown/black lesions that occur on the nuts shucks, leaves and twigs.

The best way to control scab is to plant resistant varieties.

In most cases, pecan scab cannot be controlled on susceptible varieties without spraying.

The severity of pecan scab is determined by the frequency of rainfall -- the longer the period of wetness, the heavier the scab.

Pecans should be harvested as soon as they mature to prevent loss from predation and deterioration. After harvest, store nuts in a clean, cool and dry place to maintain quality.

Source: extension.uga.edu, Pecan Trees for the Home or Backyard Orchard, Lenny Wells, Will Hudson, Jason Brock

DATES TO REMEMBER

May 25: Office closed for Memorial Day

For more information on any program area, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or drop by our office in the old courthouse, downtown Perry, 801 Main St. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visit our website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston for more news about your local Extension office. Check out my blog at www.blog.extension.uga.edu/houston.

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