Pollination Characteristics of Pecan Trees and Orchards

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  • 1 U. S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, Southeastern Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory, Byron, GA 31008.

There is increasing evidence of substantial pollination related crop losses by pecan [Carya illinoensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] orchards. These most likely occur in block-type orchards consisting of only one or two cultivars, but can also occur at locations with a great number of different genotypes nearby. Main crop cultivars should generally be within about two rows of pollinizers to ensure cross-pollination. Thus, block widths exceeding about four rows between pollinizers are especially likely to exhibit serious pollination problems. Scattered trees of off-type genotypes are potentially of major importance as backup orchard pollinizers. Tree age/size and spring temperatures influence the characteristics of flower maturity windows and are probably primary factors contributing to pollination-related fruit-set losses in many block-type orchards. Flower maturity tends to be earlier in older/larger trees while warmer springs accelerate catkin development relative to that of pistillate flowers. Because of substantial variability in relative differences associated with initiation and duration of flower maturity windows within either protandrous or protogynous flowering types (i.e., Type I or II), selection of complementary pollinizers should be based on the relatively high resolution 30-class flowering classification system rather than the traditional low resolution 2-class system. Other factors sometime causing pollination related crop losses are either abnormally wet weather or strong dry winds during the pollination period or abnormally warm or cool springs. Pollination problems can be visually detected by noting premature non insect related post pollination fruit drop or diminishing fruit set with increasing distance from pollinator trees or off-type genotypes within the orchard.

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