Thursday, September 12, 2013

Double row pecans: From intercrop to covercrop

    In 2003, we planted a new pecan orchard using a double row planting plan that created a wider spacing for intercropping while maintaining adequate tree numbers to allow for early economic returns from nut production.
    Over the years, we had planted and harvested wheat, oats, and soybeans all during a time when our young pecan trees were just getting established.  But last summer, we noticed a change in the relationship between our trees and the intercrop. The tree's root system was starting to out-compete the intercrop for water and nutrients (photo at right). Then last fall, these same trees had their first commercial crop. And by commercial crop, I mean the trees produced enough nuts to require shaking and mechanical harvest. 

    This summer we allowed the previously cropped areas of the field to remain fallow. It was time to convert from field crop to cover crop. Over the summer, we chiseled the soil to help reduce weed growth.  Last week we worked the ground with a heavy disk (photo at left) then used a spring tooth harrow to prepare a fine seed bed.

     This week we planted a combination of perennial rye grass and redtop; two cool season grasses (photo at right). The perennial rye should produce a quick and vigorous ground cover. The redtop will be a little slow to take off but once established, it should provide us with a flood tolerant grass that provides an excellent surface for pecan harvest. Now all we need is a little rain to bring this new covercrop to life.