A common treat in the landscape, old parks, and some woods are pecans. There are some trees that seem to bear a great amount of quality nuts every year and then there are some pecan trees that disappoint far too many times.
Pecans grow state-wide and the pecan tree is the state tree of Texas. Many homeowners have planted them but their success in producing a quality crop each year has been far from easy. Though pecan trees are hardy and are nearly always an excellent shade tree, we hardly ever want just shade from them.
For quality and regular nut production, there are number of factors that must be just right. First, pecans should be established on deep and well drained soils that contain proper amounts of air, water and nutrients. Poor soil drainage is one of the most serious limiting factors in pecan orchards.
More pecan trees and their orchards fail in Texas because of they are planted on an undesirable site from any other factor, and unfortunately, management cannot correct or substitute for soil limitation. Pecan trees can grow on very shallow soil, but for quality production the soil should be 32 inches deep or more.
Next, space and ample sunlight are essential for maintaining productivity and profitability. Crowding in pecan orchards is defined as limbs of adjacent trees touching and/or less than 50% of the orchard floor receiving sunlight at mid-day in summertime. Crowding causes nut production to decline, nut size to decrease, and alternate bearing to be more severe.
The initial tree spacing determines how soon crowding will occur in a pecan orchard. Many pecan orchards in Texas are planted at a spacing of 30 to 35 feet between trees. This spacing will require removal of every other tree at a much later time. Where there is a desire for pecan trees to never crowd, they should be planted 75 to 100 feet apart or further.
In home landscapes in our part of the world, we are already blessed with large trees. Incorporating a pecan tree into a site that is full of trees can result in poor performance.
Of the 67,500 acres of planted orchards, many seldom realize a profit because one or several orchard management factors critical to success is deficient. Approximately $2,000 are required to bring one acre of pecans into production, not including the cost of the land, irrigation well, or special needs, such as wildlife-proof fencing.
Once bearing, $600 per acre are required for annual operating costs; therefore, production needs to exceed 600 pounds per acre if the pecan market price is at least $1.00 per pound. This a reasonable target, since orchards can produce from 1,000 to 2,000 pounds per acre per year in well managed orchards on good sites.
The pecan market is currently strong and paying $1.50 to $2.00 per pound wholesale. However this is a market with a history of volatility and new growers should proceed with caution, investigating the market outlook for commercial pecans.
Next week, we will examine much more closely the soil, water, and nutrient requirements as well as study the many pests than can limit pecan production in your landscape.
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.