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FAQs – Pecans and Pecan Trees

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Which cultivar is best?

Consider pollination requirements, cold tolerance and scab resistance when choosing a cultivar. To insure proper pollination occurs, 3 cultivars should be planted making sure you have at least one Type l and one Type ll pollination group. At the JoCo extension fall plant sale, we offer Pawnee & Cape Fear as Type I and Stuart & Gloria Grande as Type II. Most trees will bear fruit at 5 to 9 years of age.

Where and How should a Pecan Tree be planted?

Picture by University of Maine

Picture by University of Maine

Native toriver valley soils, saplings love deep soils with moderate moisture holding capacity and fair amounts of rain or irrigation. Plant trees a minimum of 50 feet apart, at the top elevation of a hill or a south facing slope, never in a low area. High quality bare root trees, 4-6 foot tall, are most recommended. Pecan trees love soils in the 6.0-6.5 ph range (soil test before planting). They have a tap root system so make the hole large enough so the roots can be stretched out, with no curling, in native soil. It is important to make the root collar or graft union is 4 inches above soil, as pictured below.

Carefully backfill, gently packing the native soil to avoid air pockets. Water the newly planted tree well. Note, Trees in nursery pots usually fare poorly. If needed, use a 10-10-10 fertilizer a few days after the tree settles.

When should a Pecan Tree be fertilized?

Fertilize per the soil tests analysis. Trees should be fertilized In February thru mid March. Use up to 4lbs of 10-10-10 fertilizer, including zinc sulfate and other micro-nutrients, per inch diameter of the trunk. Broadcast out to the drip line of the tree.

Should a Pecan Tree be pruned?

Remove dead/broken branches. Little other pruning should be done as it will cut nut production.

Do Pecan trees experience disease, insect or other pest problems?

Picture by NCSU

Picture by NCSU

The major disease of concern is Pecan Scab, a fungus attacking leaves and the shuck. Primarily occurring early in the season and identified by small circular spots that are olive to black, it can be managed by selecting resistant varieties, early application of fungicide and keeping the ground around trees free of debris, leaves. Keep grass cut short.

Pecan Scab

Major insect pests include Pecan Weevil, Green Stink and Leaf Footed Bugs, Twig Girdlers and Aphids.

Picture by USDA Cooperative Extension

Picture by USDA Cooperative Extension

Pecan Weevil is the most serious late season pest as it attacks the nut. First, weevils puncture the nuts (early August) causing nuts to fall after 2-3 days. Secondary damage is larval feeding within the nut. At maturity, it chews a hole through the shell and the nut falls to the ground.

The weevil then exits and burrows into the soil, emerging from the soil August thru September. Crawling, flying, mating, they may live for many days. Tanglefoot may be put around the lower trunk of the tree to catch adults and keep the population down.

Small holes drilled in the pecan shell are a sure sign of pecan weevil. Photo courtesy of USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series,

Picture by Purdue University

Picture by Purdue University

Stink bugs puncture the shell before and after hardening. Black spots develop on the kernel causing bitterness. This is referred to as kernel spot or bitter pit.

Stink bug feeding. Image courtesy of Purdue University.

Twig Girdlers girdle twigs and small branches and lay eggs in the slits of the branch. Larvae feed on fallen branches and pupate in the soil. Fall Webworms are usually found on branches in August and September. If low enough, growers open the webs and allow birds to feast. Most of these pests can be controlled with good cleanliness management practices.

References:  NCSU Publication: Growing Pecans in North Carolina – AG-81

Developed by:  Roy Lewis and Margery Pearl,  January 2015

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