Pecan Research

GUY W. ADRIANCE Head, Department of Horticulture, A&M College of Texas None of us in pecan work have any prejudice, but we all agree that the pecan is an ideal tree to plant in the yard. Starting with this as our major premise, there are several points that should be kept in mind to obtain the most satisfactory results. Choice of varieties is important for several reasons. If more than one tree is to be planted, some thought should be given to the question of pollination. Some of the best varieties in other respects are partly or completely self-unfruitful; but there are other good varieties that can be used to insure successful pollination and the more regular bearing. Adaptation to the area is important, and advice should be sought in this respect also. In choosing a variety for planting in the yard, the owner should be very conscious of the ornamental value of the varieties that he selects. Some of them have a very upright habit of growth, while others are spreading, and still others are almost drooping in habit. Some have long slender branches, with few side shoots, and others are more compact and densely branched. The leaves of some varieties, the Delmas for example, are larger, and have a healthier, glossy green appearance than others. Freedom from disease is also a factor in the appearance of the tree, even though a careful spray program is contemplated. Planting of the trees is another operation that must receive careful attention. In the first place, it is important to locate the tree where it will have the greatest value in the landscape, and at the same time provide shade where it will do the most good. The tree should not be too close to the house or other buildings, which would tend to retard its growth on one side; or possibly damage the house if it did send long branches over the roof. On the other hand, shade, particularly on the west and southwest, is important in cooling the home, even where air conditioning is being used. The size of pecan tree to plant will be determined to some extent by financial considerations, since very large trees can be moved successfully at a price! Under ordinary conditions a good 6 to 7 foot tree will give good results, and can be set out by anyone with ordinary care, and can be expected to bear by the eighth year. It is not necessary to dig a huge hole for the tree, unless the soil is very poor and stony. In any case, a big hole filled with loose soil will give trouble, if the surrounding soil is tight and will not permit drainage. Water will accumulate in the hole and cause the tree roots to suffocate, with resulting death of the tree. Depth of the hole is, however, very important, so that the tap root that is left on the tree will not have to be shortened again. The hole should be filled nearly full with loose soil, and then sufficient water put in to fill the hole and pack the soil. After this is done, the hole is filled slightly above the soil level, to allow for some settling. Training the pecan tree should not be attempted at the time of planting. Most pecan trees make a slow start, and they need all the leaves possible to provide food for growth. Even though it is desired to have the first branches 6 feet or more above the ground, it is not advisable to prune the tree up to that height at planting. The side branches that are left will provide food for growth, and also protect the trunk from sunburn. These branches can be removed later, when there is enough top to shade the trunk during most of the day. If the trunk is bare of branches, it should be wrapped loosely with heavy paper as a protection from the sun. Care of yard trees cannot be left to chance, if one expects to get any real benefit or pleasure from them. If they are growing in a lawn, as is frequently the case, they will need special attention, from the stand-point of watering and fertilization. As the tree grows, its roots will extend laterally beyond the spread of the branches. It can be seen readily that a little bit of water and fertilizer close around the trunk will be of little benefit. The whole area under the branches, and for several feet beyond, should have a good application of fertilizer, at least once a year, preferably in early spring. This should be watered in, if rain does not come right away. Aeration of the soil with spikes or spading fork prongs will aid in penetration of nutrients and water. Control of insects and diseases must be maintained on schedule. Information on this subject is revised annually and made available in a bulletin from the Agricultural Extension Service.

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