Friday, April 12, 2024

Spring bud development 2024

Kanza, 8 Apr. 2024

     On April 8th, while the nation was enamored with watching a solar eclipse, I was in my pecan grove watching new growth emerge from branch terminals in my pecan grove.  It's the start of a new pecan season and a time of great optimism for the coming nut crop.




Hark, 8 Apr. 2024

   While inspecting the emerging buds of multiple pecan cultivars two key observations came to the forefront. The first was the fact that the cultivar, Hark, breaks bud later than any cultivar in my orchard (photo at left). While most cultivars were showing some some green tissue development, Hark buds were just starting to swell or were still dormant.

    The second observation I could make was the obvious difference in catkin emergence between protandrous (type 1) and protogynous (type 2) cultivars. In the photos above, the red arrows point to the male flowers on both flowering types. With the protandrous cultivar (Caney),  the catkins have already emerged from their bud scales. In contrast, bud scales still tightly cover the catkins of the protogynous cultivar (Kanza). Later this Spring, female flowers will appear at the terminals of new shoots. Female flower clusters will first become visible on protogynous cultivars while protandrous cultivars develop their pistillate flowers during the later half of the pollination season. 

   I recorded bud break for numerous cultivars on April 8th including all of the cultivars from my pecan breeding project. This year, bud break seems fairly uniform across cultivars with the exception of the late leafing Hark. In the photos below, you'll see slight differences in bud development. The bottom line is that if a late spring freeze came now, a majority of cultivars would suffer significant cold damage. The good news is that with each passing day the chances for sub freezing temperatures becomes more remote.







St. Paul


Monday, February 5, 2024

Inspecting my scionwood crop

    Today's bright sunshine and cloudless sky provided me with a great opportunity to photograph my pecan scionwood crop (photo at right). I've been harvesting scions from these same trees for over 6 years now and you can easily see how the heavy annual pruning has changed the pattern of pecan tree growth.

    Note the cluster of leaves trapped up in each tree. As leaves fell from the tree last Fall, many of those leaves became lodged in the profusion of branches that sprouted near the pruning cuts I made last season. In a few weeks time, I'll be removing all the one-year-old shoots from these trees allowing all the dead leaves to fall to the ground. After pruning my scionwood trees will look barren and naked.

     However, severe pruning is necessary to stimulate the growth of abundant and vigorous shoots each summer. As you can see in the photo the shoots produced by this method are long, straight, and have large, healthy buds spaced widely apart on the stem. These one-year-old shoots are easy to carve and make strong healthy scions.

     Clicking of "Pecan Scionwood 2024" on the mast head will take you to my pecan scionwood order page. Hopefully, the days of severe drought are behind us and the 2024 grafting season will provide the perfect opportunity to propagate some new pecan trees.


Saturday, January 20, 2024

Thinning trees to maximize light penetration and remove problems

     All summer long I take mental notes on tree spacing within my orchard. This past summer, I noticed several areas in my pecan breeding block that were becoming crowded. Limbs of adjacent trees were nearly touching. Sunlight penetration into each and every tree canopy is critical for maximum nut production, so it was time to break out the chainsaw (photo above).  

     As you can see in the photo, I attach a couple of special implements on my tractor during the tree removal operation. On the tractor's front loader, I attach a hydraulic grapple to pick up the downed limbs and trunk. On the tractor's 3-point-hitch I've mounted a large tool box. The bottom of the tool box is lined with paving stones to provide sufficient weight to counter balance the pecan logs I lift with the grapple. Above the stones, I have plenty of room to carry 2 chainsaws, fuel, bar oil and tools for chainsaw maintenance.

    When removing trees of this size (about 12 inches dbh), I always notch the trunk at a comfortable height  so I can control the direction of tree fall. Once the tree is down, I'll cut the trunk off at ground level. Stump grinding comes later with a different implement and a different tractor.

    This winter I also removed one of my problem trees.  Tree number KT772 is a open pollinated seedling of Pawnee. As I young tree, I could forgive the scab susceptibility of this seedling (scabs about the same as Pawnee) because the nuts were large, thin-shelled, and good quality. However, like its Pawnee parent this tree started into alternate bearing at a fairly young age. In 2023, KT772 was the only tree in my orchard to set an excessive crop load. Note in the photo at left, all the limbs are drooping under the weight of nuts. By October, several limbs had snapped and fallen to the ground.

     In previous years, KT772 ripened around October 7. However this year, the shucks on this tree never opened (photo at right) and were frozen tight on the nut shell following the 1st fall freeze.


   Late in the fall I broke open a KT772 nut and found extremely poor kernel filling.  Shuck split in pecan is promoted by plant growth regulators stimulated by fully formed kernels. Without proper kernel development, shuck split is either extremely late (like the drought year of 2022) or it will never happen.

    Just before frost, I found that the shell of KT772 had only partially separated from the husk but the nut shell had developed its normal coloring. By the time I harvested my pecan crop, every KT772 nut was a blackened stick-tight (following 1st Fall freeze) and was totally worthless.  

   I have watched this tree long enough. So this winter KT772 was removed from my pecan breeding block.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Pecan cultivars that ripened in October

Jayhawk, 4 Oct. 2023  

      In my area of Kansas, pecan cultivars must ripen by mid-October to reliably split open their shucks before the first killing freeze in the Fall. Pictured here are some of the cultivars that ripened during the first 2 weeks of October in my orchard.

Shepherd, 6 Oct. 2023

KT330, 6 Oct. 2023

Labette, 9 Oct. 2023

St. Paul, 13 Oct. 2023


    Jayhawk -- an open-pollinated seedling of Giles

    Shepherd -- a native seedling from Central Missouri

    KT330 -- a selection from my breeding project. The result of a cross of Pawnee and                                 Greenriver.

    Labette -- tested as KT334 from my breeding project. A cross of Pawnee and Greenriver. 

    St. Paul -- tested as KT201 from my breeding project. A cross of Pawnee and Major.