Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Hand harvesting nut samples

    Over the past week, I've been harvesting nut samples from each of the trees in our pecan breeding block. This is a slow but exciting process. Because the trees in the breeding block are planted fairly close together, I harvest samples before nuts start to drop to make certain I collect the right nuts for each tree. This means getting up in our hydraulic lift and pulling off nuts still inside their green but split-open shucks. By harvesting nuts this way I have the opportunity to take important notes on scab resistance.
    As I harvest each nut sample and remove the nuts from the shucks, I think about the potential for that tree to become a new pecan cultivar. In selecting nuts for future testing, my priority is to find new pecan cultivars that have good resistance to scab and excellent kernel quality. Nut size is important but if we have learned anything from our experience with Kanza, customers can appreciate a good tasting medium-sized pecan over a large nut that tastes like cardboard.
     The photo above shows some of the nuts I collected late last week. In the top row I have two Pawnee nuts followed by two Kanza nuts. Pawnee and Kanza are the standards by which I measure all potential new cultivars. Nuts from ten different trees in the breeding block are shown in the middle and bottom rows. These ten were among the numerous trees that showed good scab resistance in a year with heavy scab pressure. As you can see the nuts come in all sizes and shapes. Still to be determined is how well these nuts shell out and the quality of the kernel inside the shell.