Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What happens when Lakota over-produces?

    As a pecan cultivar, Lakota has a lot of great attributes. Lakota produces large pecans with high quality kernels. The tree is precocious, high yielding, and scab resistant. However, Lakota is not the perfect cultivar. As the tree ages, Lakota can over-produce and slip into alternate bearing.   
    Our Lakota trees are now close to 30 years old and this past summer the trees were loaded up with pecans (photo at right). Lakota can produce large nut clusters often with six to seven nuts to a cluster. Although large cluster size looks impressive in mid summer, too many nuts in a cluster usually creates problems with kernel fill.

    In the photo above, the four kernels on the right side are examples of the excellent quality nuts  usually associated with Lakota pecans. The four kernel halves on the left side also came from Lakota nuts but illustrate the common kernel defects associated with crop over-production.  If you look carefully you will spot three indicators of poor kernel fill. 
    First, note that the kernels on the  left do not appear as plump as the kernels on the right. In addition, the poorly filled kernels have a light coat of fuzz on the surface of the kernel especially towards the apex. Turn the kernel over and you see that the underside looks hollow or depressed. All three of these symptoms are indications that the tree did not have enough available energy to fill every nut on the tree to maximum quality.
    The biggest problem with over-producing Lakota trees is the fact that a single tree produces both high quality and lesser quality nuts. This can create a marketing nightmare especially when selling directly to the consumer. Ultimately, over-production can be managed by thinning the nut crop in mid-summer using a trunk shaker. Shaking over-loaded trees during the water stage of nut development will reduce both the number of nuts per cluster and the number of nut clusters per tree. By reducing the crop load, the remaining nuts will fill to perfection and the tree will set a better crop the following season.