Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Cutting pecan scionwood


    Last week, the weather was perfect for getting outside and cutting pecan scions. On my farm, I have several trees that are trained specifically to grow high quality scions. The photo at left shows a Yates 68 tree that is covered with long, one-year-old shoots just perfect for making prime scionwood. 

    Depending on the weather, I usually starting cutting scions in late February or early March. The shoots at this time are still fully dormant and the buds are nice and plump.


    In the photo at right, I have cut all the one-year-old shoots off the right side of the tree. Note that I deliberately leave short stubs with each pruning cut. This will provide multiple buds for developing new shoots this spring, creating even more scionwood opportunities for 2023.

    Eventually, I prune every shoot off the tree (photo at left). This kind of drastic pruning practically eliminates nut production and retards overall tree growth. However, by limiting height growth, I can maintain a steady supply of easily accessible and healthy scions for years to come. 

     Once I have all the one-year-old shoots on the ground, I pick up the limbs and start cutting them into graft-size pieces. I store my scions is plastic tote boxes that feature tight-fitting lids. Before adding scions to the box, I line the bottom with 4 layers of paper towels. I then pour just enough water on the towels to soak them fully. I cut scions 5 to 7 inches long with each stick having at least 3 buds. I carefully stack the scions in the box making sure not to dislodge buds from the sticks. Once I fill the box, I place another layer of paper towels over the top of the scions and moisten with water. 

    The wet paper towels help to maintain 100% relative humidity inside the box, keeping the wood from drying out in storage. After attaching the lid of the box, I store the scions in a cooler kept at 34 degrees F.   At my location, grafting season starts during the last week of April or early May.