Some reasons pecan trees fail to grow pecans
by Shane Harris
Special to The Star
Nov 15, 2009 | 1664 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Every year people are dumbfounded why their beloved pecan trees didn't produce any or very few pecans. With Alabama having thousands of mature pecan trees around homes, many have sparse and erratic production. Usually, there is no single reason why a pecan tree fails to produce a crop or produces poor quality nuts. Other than a few specific situations like major hurricanes, severe drought conditions, and extreme amounts of rain, pecans are fairy predictable and will always yield a decent crop if cared for properly. Even with trends showing that pecans do have some off years, when pecan trees don't produce regularly, it is usually for some major reason. The following are common problems and some suggestions for correcting them.

Poor variety and Disease and Insect pests —Pecan cultivars (varieties) vary in production capacity, nut quality and susceptibility to disease and other problems. Some varieties will rarely produce a good crop when trees are unsprayed because the trees are extremely susceptible to pecan scab, a fungus disease. Pecan scab seriously limits production on unsprayed pecan varieties. Even varieties previously resistant to scab are being affected. Several other diseases can cause early leaf drop and decreased production. New recommended varieties for homeowners with excellent to good disease resistance are — 'Gafford', 'Excel', 'Lakota', 'Headquarters', 'McMillan', and 'Baby B'. Check for more information and availability.

Aphids, pecan weevils, hickory shuckworms and several other insects can limit production. Removing and destroying fallen leaves, shucks, nuts or twigs are measures that aid in control of many insects and diseases. Spraying may not be feasible for growers with only a few trees, but if you would like spray recommendations for controlling pests, they are available from your local Extension office.

Poor soil — Pecan trees grow best on sandy loam soils with well-drained subsoil. Growth and production is often poor on heavy clays, poorly drained soils and on deep sands unless an intensive irrigation and fertilization program is maintained.

Inadequate lime or fertilizer — Lack of lime, nitrogen fertilizer and zinc are common limiting factors in pecan production. Fertilize according to soil and leaf sample recommendations. Apply fertilizer in March on large trees. For young trees, fertilize in March with 13-13-13, lime and zinc. Apply half ammonium nitrate in April, half in June. Broadcast fertilizer on the surface in a circle twice the branch spread of the tree.

Too much or too little water — Waterlogged soils where water stands do not provide aeration for roots. Lack of water, especially during dry periods of summer, frequently results in reduced yields and quality, and in weakened trees that may be less productive in following years. Choose well-drained soil, provide drainage for excess water and keep trees watered during dry periods.

Poor pollination — A single isolated pecan tree usually won't be effectively pollinated, since most varieties shed pollen either too early or too late to pollinate the female flowers of the same tree. If a number of seedling pecan trees or trees of several different varieties are already growing within a few hundred yards, a tree for pollination is probably unnecessary. Another reason for poor pollination is wet weather during April and May. Rain washes off pollen and may restrict movement of pollen by wind.

Overcrowding — Pecan trees must have good exposure to sunlight to produce good crops. When limbs begin to overlap limbs of neighboring trees, remove the least desirable trees to prevent overcrowding.

For more information, contact your local county Extension office or visit us online at
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Some reasons pecan trees fail to grow pecans by Shane Harris
Special to The Star

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