Trials were conducted during summer months of 2002 and 2003 to evaluate the effects of a kaolin-based particle film (Surround WP, Engelhard Corp.) on gas exchange, nut quality, casebearer density and population of natural enemies (insects and arachnids) on pecan (Carya illinoinensis `Pawnee') trees. Film application was repeated for seven (2002) or nine (2003) times during the growing season. In both years, treated trees showed lower leaf temperature (up to 4 °C) than untreated trees. During the warmest hours of the day, kaolin-treated leaves were generally 0 to 2 °C cooler than air temperatures, compared to 4 to 6 °C for control leaves. Leaf net assimilation rate, stomatal conductance and stem water potential were not affected by film application. Nut size and quality did not differ between the two treatments. Shellout (percentage of nut consisting of kernel) was not affected by treatment and averaged about 55%. Crop grade distribution (fancy, choice, standard, and damaged) was also similar among treatments in both years. In both years, numbers of green lacewing eggs was less on kaolin-treated compared to control leaves. The density of common natural enemies (lady beetles, green lacewings, spiders) of pecan pests did not differ between treatments. The average number of developing nuts damaged by pecan nut casebearer (Acrobasis nuxvorella Neunzig) was significantly higher in kaolin-sprayed trees (24.2%) compared to control trees sprayed with conventional insecticides (9.3%). The results suggest that kaolin-based particle film may not be a viable alternative to conventional methods of controlling pecan pests. Also, under adequate irrigation conditions, carbon assimilation, water relations and productivity may not benefit from kaolin particle film application.
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