Saturday, November 15, 2014

Kanza, stick-tights and crop load regulation

  Kanza has become a very popular pecan cultivar because no matter the weather, Kanza always seems to produce a quality kernel (photo at right). Over the past four years, I've been watching our Kanza trees closely and I think I've  discovered one of the ways these trees preserve kernel quality even when faced with stressful weather conditions.  It looks like Kanza trees self thin a portion of their nuts to ensure full kernel filling for the rest of the crop.

    We recently harvested a block of Kanza trees and had dumped a load of nuts into the pecan cleaner. When I looked at the nuts swept up by the harvester, I noticed a large number of stick-tights. The photo at left shows an example of field run Kanza nuts before cleaning. There were plenty of good Kanza nuts mixed in with a few sticks, leaves, and dirt clods. But what stands out are the nuts trapped in blackened shucks.
   It turns out that about 12% of Kanza nuts collected by the harvester this year were stick-tights. Just looking at the photo it seems like the percentage should be higher but a nut stuck in the shuck takes up a lot more space than a nut out of the shuck. 
   I separated out several of the stick-tight pecans, peeled the shuck off, and cracked open the nuts. In every case, I found a brown, paper-thin kernel inside. It looks like each of these stick-tight pecans stopped kernel development at the water stage leaving only the seed coat inside the shell.
   The question becomes--"Why did these nuts stop developing during the water stage?".  During the summer of 2014, we experienced an extended period of dry weather that started during the final stages of nut sizing and continued until late August. In addition, our Kanza trees had set an above-average crop. Most pecan cultivars react to these circumstances by aborting a portion of their crop in what is commonly known as a water stage drop. Nuts dropped in mid-summer often disappear by harvest as they decompose in the ground cover.
   Kanza is different. A Kanza tree stressed by drought and crop load turns off the nut development process during water stage for a portion of the crop but those nuts remain on the tree until harvest. 
   The good news is that Kanza seems to do an excellent job of regulating its crop load to ensure that fully ripe nuts are well filled. The bad news is that cleaning the Kanza crop following a mid summer drought will take a little more time to remove numerous stick-tights.