Often asked is what it takes to have a great pecan tree that can be depended on to produce pecans!
While pecan trees can grow all over our area, harvesting quality pecan nuts is a little difficult. Considerations for pecan production include soil type, pecan tree variety, fertilization and pest control.
First and foremost, choose a site with well-drained soil. The tried and true test is to dig a hole nearly three feet deep and not more than a foot wide. Borrow a post-hole digger from a friend if you don’t have one to do this.
Add water to the hole until it stays full and then wait. If the water is gone in 24 hours, you have well drained soil and a great site for pecans. If the water takes about 48 hours to drain, you have a fair site. If there is water in the bottom of the hole for 72 hours (three days) or more, you have a poor internally drained soil and a poor location for pecans.
When selecting a pecan variety for home planting, the most important factor to consider is scab disease tolerance or resistance. While smaller trees may be sprayed for the first few years with small sprayers, homeowners normally do not have access to high-pressure spray equipment required for season-long disease control on large trees, nor is it economically feasible.
Plant a variety from the following list: Caddo, Desirable, Jackson, Oconee, Pawnee, Elliott, Sumner, or Forkert. Can you try another variety? Certainly! Just realize these were evaluated for resistance to our greatest nemesis: pecan scab disease.
Remember, space and ample sunlight is essential for maintaining productivity over the long term. Crowding causes nut production to decline, nut size to decrease, and alternate year bearing to be more severe.
Nitrogen is essential for good pecan growth. The first application should be at bud break in April with additional applications in May and June. When extremely heavy crops are set, nitrogen should also be applied in July and August. As a guide, apply 1 lb. of 33-0-0 per inch the trunk is wide each time you fertilize. For example, a one foot wide trunk needs 12 lbs. of N fertilizer spread evenly under the drip-line.
On smaller trees, foliar zinc sprays are essential for pecan growth in Texas. Soil applications of zinc are not effective. Zinc is needed for leaf expansion, so applications should be made frequently in the early portion of the growing season for maximum growth. Two products, zinc sulfate wettable powder or liquid zinc nitrate, are used with equal success.
Pecans are susceptible to a number of foliage, fruit and root diseases in Texas. Pecan Scab is the most important fungal disease in Eastern Texas. Control is not realistic for homeowners, so the selection of a disease resistant variety is very important.
Finally, don’t forget to water when our weather turns dry. The most common reason for dry shriveled kernels is largely due to dry soil conditions in mid-summer on through the final formation of pecans. In fact, after establishing a good pecan variety on a well-chosen site, water may be the single most important input a homeowner can have.
How long until you get pecans from a newly planted tree? The longest estimated time on a variety is 12 years while some are reported to bear in 4-5 years.
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.