Pe-can, pe-kahn, it doesn’t matter how you say it — it is still an iconic Southern staple. January may not seem like a timely subject matter for pecans, but if you are planning for next year, it is a great time. There appears to be peaked interest in pecans and increased local demand currently for pecan trees to plant. Helping address this interest, Robeson County Cooperative Extension has planned an opportunity for interested people to attend a pecan management seminar on Feb. 21.
Pecan trees are monoecious, which means that male and female structures are present on the same tree. However, because the timing of the pollen release often does not coincide with the maturity of the female “flower,” poor pollination rates can result in reduced nut production. Planting more than one variety and also more than one type can increase pollination rates. Pecan trees are separated into two pollination groups referred to as Type 1 and Type 2. Pollen is released at different times for each type. For optimum production, both types should be planted in an orchard.
There are many varieties of pecan trees available, but all do not perform the same in every region. Four varieties that are not recommended for North Carolina are Desirable, Mahan, Schley and Success. These perform poorly in our region because of low disease resistance and poor nut quality. A native North Carolina variety that performs well here is Cape Fear.
Pecan trees are subject to attack by more than 20 insects and mites. However, only four insects — the pecan weevil, twig girdler, stinkbug, and aphids — are usually of economic importance in North Carolina. It is important to recognize damage caused by these insects and to understand their life cycle, knowing when to monitor for their presence to effectively apply pest management strategies. In North Carolina, the major disease of concern is pecan scab. It is caused by a fungus that attacks both the leaves and the shuck, which is the “flesh” covering the nut.
This disease primarily occurs early in the season and is identified by small circular spots that range from olive to black in color on the leaves. Lesions on the nut shucks appear as sunken black spots and in severe cases may turn the entire shuck black. Pecan scab is managed primarily by selecting resistant varieties and by applying fungicides early in the season.
Nutrition in pecan orchards should be managed using visual observation, soil analysis and leaf analysis. Soil samples should be collected and submitted for analysis at the same time each year, preferably in the fall. Each sample should be a composite of at least 20 sub-samples from across the field with the same soil type. Fields under different management systems or different soil types should be sampled separately.
For information, contact Mack Johnson, Extension horticulture agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276, by email at Mack_Johnson@ncsu.edu, or by visiting http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu/.