Monday, March 30, 2020

Pecan trees breaking bud

     Between rain showers, I noticed the slightest amount of green tissue emerging from the terminals of pecan tree branches. I decided to take a closer look to see how this Spring's new growth was developing on my trees. After a tour of the grove,
I found that some cultivars still looked dormant while others had broken open their inner bud scales. Posted below are photos of pecan buds that I took today (30 March 2020). Each photo is identified by cultivar and the stage of bud development. This year, bud break seems to have started about a week earlier than average.  If night-time temperature stay above 26 degrees F over the next three weeks, we should escape any freeze damage to emerging buds.

Hark, dormant, 30 Mar 2020
Kanza, Outer scale split, 30 Mar 2020

Greenriver, Bud elongation, 30 Mar 2020

Faith, Bud swell (protandrous cultivar), 30 Mar 2020

KT149, Bud swell (protogynous cultivar), 30 Mar 2020

Friday, March 20, 2020

Wet spring delays application of fertilizer to pecan groves

    The wet weather cycle continues with above average rainfall covering much of the Midwest. Since January 1, 2020, we have received twice our normal amount of precipitation on our farm. Needless to say, the soils in my young pecan orchard are saturated with puddles of standing water everywhere (photo at right).
    I usually make my Spring application of fertilizer during the month of March, but until things dry up a bit, I won't be able to pull a fertilizer buggy across the orchard.
    I typically watch for the first signs of bud swell to make the Spring fertilizer application. So out of curiosity, I checked bud development on some of my Kanza trees. The buds were still fully dormant (photo at left).  This means, that even if the ground was dry, I would be holding off on fertilizing at this time. Once I see bud swell, I'll spread some N, P, and K as soon as the soil becomes passable.

    The Neosho River spilled over it banks yesterday and moved into many native pecan groves in our area (photo at right).  The frequency of springtime floods in many native pecan groves is the primary reason I started recommending spreading a portion of the tree's fertilizer needs in the Fall. With fall fertilization, I can be certain that trees have enough stored nutrients to make vigorous new shoots in the spring. Then, when the soils dry out, more fertilizer can be applied to sustain both shoot and nut growth during the summer months.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Kanza holds on all winter

Kanza 7 March 2020
    The 2019 pecan harvest season was a wet one. On my farm, I could never harvest the nuts from two Kanza trees because the ground around them never had a chance to dry out. I use a Savage pecan harvester to harvest my crop and I've learned over the years that you can plug up a harvester with mud trying to pick pecans on wet ground. So, in the end, I had to leave two Kanza trees unharvested due to wet soil conditions around the trees.
    Last weekend,the sun was shinning and the soils in my pecan grove just beginning to dry out enough to allow me to work in the orchard. I walked over to the unharvested Kanza trees to see if I could grab a snack and was surprised to see that much of the crop was still hanging in the tree (photo at right). In my view, holding on to the nut crop is a positive attribute. My orchard as already been swept clean by 2 flash floods during this winter and early spring yet most of the remaining Kanza nuts were still hanging in the tree, safe from flood waters or simply rotting on wet ground.
  With the forecast for more rain next week, I'll probably never get to harvest the nuts from these two Kanza trees. However, it good to know that Kanza will hold on to its crop until I get ready to shake nuts from the tree.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Pruning out narrow branch forks

     This past week we had some nice weather and I spent some time in the orchard inspecting my young trees for potential tree structural problems. You could say I was on a mission to find and prune out narrow branch forks. The photo at right is a typical example.
    This tree has developed a lower limb that is growing upright and competing with the central leader. Now is the time to prune out this potential problem before I find myself with a forked tree.
    If you take a close look at the narrow branch connection (photo at left), you can see that a bark inclusion has already formed. These type of branch connections are extremely weak and have a tendency to break out during wind storms or under the weight of a heavy nut crop. To prevent future problems, I prune out narrow branch connections whenever I see them.
    Using a saw, I cut off the upright-growing, lower limb all the way back to the main trunk. When removing this branch, I made a 45 degree angle cut which should help the tree heal over the cut surface as quickly as possible (photo at right).