Pecan Research

D. F. Moore, Bend, Texas

Thirty years ago I planted my first pecans in Erath County, Texas. I obtained the seed from Mr. Hollis of Bend, Texas, who named the pecan the "Hollis." I planted the "Hollis” pecan because it was the largest pecan I had ever seen at that time, and I wanted large pecans. I planted seven acres. They have been bearing pecans about 20 years, but they have never borne a “Hollis” pecan and never will unless they are budded with "Hollis" buds. This was my first mistake, but not my last. I have learned but little about the pecan in my 30 years of experience, but don't you get discouraged, for you can learn more at this meeting than I have learned in thirty years if you try. I have learned a few don'ts that might be of benefit to some of you. If you want a certain type of pecan, don't plant the seed to get it, for it will take you ten years to find out your mistake. If you want to set a pecan orchard now and don't have the budded trees, don't try to raise them, but buy them from some reliable man or nursery, because you can make enough money to pay for your trees and the labor before your own raised trees are large enough to set out. Don't set out uncultivated trees, for it takes them about five years to adapt themselves to cultivation; but if you must set the uncultivated trees, cut them off about two inches below the ground and when they sprout, thin to one sprout, for the trunk of the un-cultivated tree seems to be bark-bound and will not grow fast enough under cultivation and becomes top heavy, and if you prune it back it will die to the ground. If you want pecans set budded trees. If you want plenty of exercise, go to the bottoms and dig your trees. Don't set out or bud small pecans (that is, varieties that bear small nuts), Even if you can get as much for them per pound, the cost of harvesting and handling is greater and will make your profits less. Don't set many of the eastern varieties in a windy, dry climate, for they split easily and do not stand drouth as well as the western varieties. Don't set trees that are extremely prolific bearers, for they usually bear one crop and miss one, and if they bear two extremely heavy crops in two successive years it takes them four or five years to get over it. I know of several trees of this type that have become worthless. It reduces their vitality and disease sets up. It takes intelligent pruning and doctoring to make that tree of any value. Set trees that bear medium crops every year. Don't make your buds grow very fast for two years in a windy country. They will blow off and make ugly shapes unless you stake them, which is often neglected. Don't accept as facts all the great things you hear about the pecan. We have nursery men and promoters who are honest and good men that are overzealous to sell, and some good men are naturally extremists in the pecan business as well as in other lines of business. Compare the pecan business to a ladder with ten rounds on it. You can get on the first round during your lifetime, if you love your work and do your best. Your children can climb to the second round with a like effort. The tenth generation will get to the top and probably get the greatest benefits of any. If you don't love your people, your friends and your country, don't plant pecans. If you want the cream of your business for yourself during your lifetime, don't plant pecans. But if you love your family, your neighbor and your country and want to help future generations, lighten their burdens, make life easier and the world more beautiful to behold, be sure and plant pecans. ---------------------------------------


----------- A. T. Potts, Chief of Horticultural Division, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, College Station, Texas The Program Committee has assigned me a very wide subject. Inter- preted as we generally do, it would include anything pertaining to pecans. For that reason I looked over the program and tried to pick out of pecan TEXAS PECAN GROWERS' ASSOCIATION 41 culture a few important phases that were not assigned to other speakers. Some of these have been touched by others, so will not be mentioned. Other points I feel are of sufficient importance to be dwelt upon at greater length. Cultivation of Pecans In Texas the cultivation of pecans falls naturally under two heads. First, the cultivation of our native top-worked trees; second, the transplanted trees. In sections where there is no native growth of pecans, all the trees are transplanted. But with us, the cultivation of our native seedling groves that have been top-worked is of as much importance as that of those transplanted in orchard form. All cultivation is either imitation of nature or a substitute for natural condition necessitated by our present civilization. The native forest floor or river bottom is a very congenial place for young seedlings of all kinds. The ripened seed fall to the ground, where they are quickly covered by leaves, brush, and litter, or wind and water give them a protection of soil. Here they are kept cool and moist and protected from dry winds and hot sun. Their development means a struggle for light and air, but rarely for plant food and moisture. As a result the feeding root systems are developed relatively near the surface, because they find a favorable environment in which to develop; while the tap root ranges deep in search of an abundant supply of water and to serve as a support for the mighty top of the future.

Cultivation of Native Groves

When a native grove is cleared of its underbrush and the trees worked over we generally assure the new top an abundance of light and air, but, on the other hand, we do not give the root system the protection and favorable environment that it has had in the past. Such conditions may be extremely hard upon the newly top-worked grove, so that some step is usually necessary to provide suitable mulch for these roots. This mulch is provided usually in one of two ways. The first of these is to permit native weeds, possibly Johnson or Bermuda grass to grow, and when sufficient size has been attained to mow this material and let it lie on the ground to decay and gradually become incorporated in the soil. In some few cases straw, hay and other mulching materials have been drawn into the orchard and scattered over the feeding area. The greatest difficulty in this is that it is extremely difficult to find enough suitable material for this purpose. Another serious objection to mulched orchards is their susceptibility to fire. It sometimes happens that trees are seriously injured by the mulch becoming accidentally ignited. Owing to the several objections that may be logically made to mulching, many of our native groves are given clean cultivation. The thoroughness of this cultivation varies all the way from systematic, careful operation with winter cover crops to the occasional plowing of the grove at such times as other work will permit. In some of the older groves, cultivation has practically been abandoned, owing to the trees reaching such size as to successfully prevent excessive growth of weels and brush. 42 FOURTH ANNUAL SESSION Clean cultivation of the pecan orchard does not mean that nothing is ever allowed to grow up on the land, except the trees. Any system of clean cultivation must be accompanied by a green manure crop. This is usually grown in the winter. It may be clover, vetch, oats, rye, or some other cereal. In starting cultivation of a native growth, care should be taken to see that the plowing is not too deep for the first few years. To plow several inches deep at first would mean the destruction of many roots needed by the tree. A gradual deepening is practical for several years upon one side of the tree row before attempting to cultivate the other side. The idea being to permit the formation of deeper roots on one side while the surface roots on the other side are functioning as best as they can. The judgment of the grower will have to determine whether enter-crops may be used under his particular conditions. Cultivation of Transplanted Groves It is frequently remarked by persons who do not favor orchard cultivation that it is the door yard tree, or tree around the outbuildings, that are the most thrifty and vigorous. This is true in many cases and would be imitated in our commercial plantings if possible. The conditions that these trees have could rarely, if ever, be duplicated on a large scale. The roots of these trees are more like the seedlings on the forest floor than at first may be thought. The roots of such trees are usually protected by litter, straw, or pass under buildings where the supply of moisture is uniform and where drying winds are checked. When it comes to the commercial plantation, such conditions cannot be attained. As a result, we try to make and maintain a mulch of the surface soil, thus approaching as near as we can natural conditions. Other things being equal, deep rooted trees are more satisfactory than those having their roots near the surface. Roots do not grow in cultivated soil, but will usually be found in abundance just a few inches below the stirred area. For that reason, one good plowing in the spring, followed by the disc or harrow frequently enough to maintain a good soil mulch, is the most satisfactory method of cultivation we have at this time. This system of cultivation must be supplemented with the application of organic matter in some form. Stable manure is good, but as it cannot be obtained in sufficient quantity, we must resort to the use of green manure crops. The benefits of cultivation are to wall known to need discussion at this time. A few of its benefits, however, will be mentioned to refresh our memories. Cultivation tends to: First---Permit the entrance of air into the soil. Oxygen being necessary for root growth. Second---Stimulates deep rooting. Third---Increases the water holding capacity of the soil. Fourth---Liberates plant food. TEXAS PECAN GROWERS' ASSOCIATION 43 Fifth---Conserves moisture. Sixth---Kills weeds. Inter-Crops Few of us can afford to wait until our young trees come into bearing before receiving any returns from the soil. For that reason the growing of crops between the tree rows is quite common. The selection of the crop will depend largely upon the section and upon the individual likes and dislikes of the owner. There are a few suggestions that might be made in this regard. The ultimate aim is to secure a pecan orchard as quickly as possible, therefore the use of any crop or any method that is likely to postpone the bearing age of the orchard is to be discouraged. In all cases, ample room should be left on either side of the tree row to permit the proper cultivation of the young trees. In no case should the crops come close enough to permit injury of the tree by careless workmen. As a general thing, relatively short season crops are less injurious to the tree than the long season crops. Cotton and sweet potatoes occupying the soil for so many months are likely to be more injurious than shorter seasoned crops. Crops should not be used in the pecan orchards that are known to be hosts of pecan pests. Cowpeas, for example, may help disseminate cotton root-rot and the southern stink bug.

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