Monday, August 5, 2019

Summer shaking to reduce over-cropping

    Many of the Kanza trees in my orchard have set far too many nuts. Nuts can be seen on almost every terminal with way too many nuts per cluster (photo at right). At first, I thought my young trees could handle the heavy load but after already seeing some limb breakage, I decided that 2019 was a good year to practice nut thinning.
    Fruit thinning is standard practice for many fruit crops. In my fruit orchards, we remove a portion of our apple, pear and peach crops every year to ensure that the remaining fruit are top quality and the trees are able to bloom next year. The same holds true for pecan. Too many nuts on a tree will result in poor quality kernels during the current season and a much reduced flower crop the following season. To regulate a pecan tree's crop load, I use my trunk shaker to remove a portion of the crop.

    Today my Kanza nuts were in the water stage with limbs hanging low under the weight of  the crop (photo at left). Capturing a heavy crop in mid-summer on film is a little difficult. The green shucks of the nut clusters blend in with the green foliage. However, if you look closely, you'll note almost every shoot is terminated by a cluster of pecans.
    Over the years, we have learned that shaking pecan trees when nuts are in the water stage can reduce the negative effects of over-cropping.  In my orchard, I use a Savage 3-pt hitch trunk shaker equipped with doughnut pads (photo at right). In shaking trees for crop load regulation, I've learned that every cultivar shakes a little different and you need to develop just the right touch to get enough nuts removed. Normally I shake in short bursts; evaluating what is left on the tree after each shake. After a while, I get a feel for how the trees are shaking this year and I can start moving through the orchard at a more rapid pace. 
    For the most part, folks usually don't shake enough off on their first go-round with summer nut thinning. However, as you get used to the technique, you will begin to focus on what is left in the tree rather than what falls to the ground.