Friday, February 3, 2017

Pecan yields from a native grove

   Many readers of this blog are interested in planting new orchards of grafted pecan trees. However, Southeast Kansas is blessed to have thousands of acres of mature native pecan trees growing in the flood plains of major rivers (photo above). The proper care of these seedling trees helps to fill the niche market for small, sweet, oily kernels that are the perfect size for fitting on top of cookies, pies, and cakes.

   At the Pecan Experiment Field we have been recording pecan production from native trees for over 35 years. Each year, we harvest the pecans from six half-acre plots. The chart above illustrates the fluctuations in yield we have observed over the past eleven years (click on the chart to enlarge). I chose this time period so you can see how I trees responded following two catastrophic weather events that impacted our native trees. In 2007, the Easter freeze killed emerging pecan buds and destroyed 3/4 of all our pistillate blossoms. The impact on yield was dramatic. Then in December of 2007, we suffered an ice storm that ended up breaking about half the limbs off our trees. Pecan yield in 2008 and 2009 suffered. After 2 years of vigorous shoot regrowth, the trees returned to normal yields in 2010 (1157 lbs/acre is our 35 year average). Since 2010, native pecan yield hit a high in 2012 and failed to impress in 2015. We've basically returned to a normal level of yield fluctuation. I wonder how our natives will bear in 2017. Only time will tell.