Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A good week for cutting scions

     The cold weather has finally broken and a wave of warmer temperatures has provided ideal conditions for collecting pecan scionwood. For the past several days, we have been harvesting wood from our scionwood orchard. We cut all the long vigorous shoots than have grown since last year's scionwood harvest (photo at right) then bring the shoots inside to be cut into 6-8 inch scion sticks. Tips for cutting scions can be found here and here.
    Note that we don't cut the entire one-year-old branch off the tree. We leave the base of the shoot along with 2 or 3 buds on the tree to provide growing points to produce the new growth we'll need for next year's scions.
   Annual severe pruning is a great way to produce a lot of high quality scions. The Pawnee tree at left produced numerous 3 to 4 foot long shoots last summer. With the aid of a hydraulic lift, we can harvest hundreds of scions from a single tree.
   The shucks still hanging in the tree means that even the most severe pruning did not prevent this scionwood tree from producing a small nut crop last season. Before we start pruning any tree into a full-fledged scionwood tree, we always allow the tree to bear a few nuts so we can verify that the tree is true to cultivar.
    We use plastic tote boxes to store our scions. We line the bottom of the 9" x 14" x 5" box with several layers of paper towels, then dampen those towels with water. These towels provide a moisture reservoir that will keep the wood at 100% relative humidity. Once the box is filled with scions, we place a second layer of moist paper towels over the wood. We then snap the plastic lid in place and the store the wood a refrigerator at 34 degrees F.
    Don't forget to label the box with the cultivar name before placing any wood in the box. We try to fill the box completely to limit the amount of air space inside the box.
    If you need to collect smaller amounts of scionwood, use gallon-sized, zip-lock freezer bags to store your scions. Make sure to label the bag with the cultivar name and place some moist paper towel inside the bag to provide moisture. Since frost-free refrigerators can suck moisture right out of a freezer bag, I always place my collection of freezer bags (each bag with a different cultivar) inside a plastic tote box before storage. The hard plastic box will ensure your wood won't dry out before the grafting season arrives.