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Bruce W. Wood

Inadequate cross-pollination of pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] occurred in block-type orchards generally thought exempt from pollination-related crop losses because of an abundance of nearby potential pollinizers. “Off-genotypes” appeared to be potentially major assets in such orchards due to their role as backup pollinizers; hence, their presence insures against crop losses due to poor pollination. Fruit-set in `Desirable' main crop rows declined sigmoidally as distance from 'Stuart' pollinizer rows increased. For 15.4-m row spacings, rate of decrease was maximum between 49 and 78 m, depending on crop year. Maximum fruit-set was in rows immediately adjacent to the pollinizer. Tree age/size and spring temperature influences on the characteristics of flower maturity windows are probably primary factors contributing to pollination-related fruit-set losses in block-type orchards relying upon pollen from a single complementary pollinizer or from neighborhood trees. For example, flower maturity was earlier in older/larger trees, and higher spring temperatures accelerated catkin development relative to that of pistillate flowers. Maximum fruit-set occurred when pistillate flowers received pollen around 1 day or less after becoming receptive, whereas no fruit-set occurred when they were pollinated around four or more days after initial receptivity. These findings indicate that many block-type orchards in the southeastern United States are exhibiting pollination-related crop reductions and that future establishment of such orchards merits caution regarding the spatial and temporal distribution of pollinizers.

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Bruce W. Wood

Zinc (Zn) deficiency is common in commercial pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) C. Koch] orchards. Correction by multiple annual foliar spray applications is expensive but effective in eliminating Zn deficiency. Correction by soil application is also expensive and is usually impractical or noneffective. There is a need for more economical and long-lasting methods for satisfying tree Zn nutritional needs. It is reported here that tree foliar Zn needs [(i.e., 50 μg·g−1 dry weight (dw) or greater] are potentially met through one-time “banding” of Zn sulfate (ZnSO4·7H2O) or Zn oxide (ZnO) onto orchard floors. Zinc needs of 4-year-old ‘Desirable’ trees growing on acidic soil were satisfied over a 4-year period by a single-banded soil application of either Zn sulfate or ZnO over underground drip irrigation lines at a Zn rate of 2112 g Zn per tree (giving foliar Zn concentrations of 60–115 μg·g−1 dw). Rates of Zn at 264 to 1056 g per tree are occasionally efficacious, but rates less than 264 g Zn per tree (0, 33, 66, and 132) were always ineffective for meeting a leaf sufficiency threshold of 50 μg·g−1 dw. Sulfate and oxide Zn forms were equally effective in meeting tree Zn needs. Foliar Zn concentrations increased quadratically with increasing soil-banded Zn treatments; however, foliar Zn concentrations did not necessarily increase over the 4-year period within each Zn rate treatment. Increasing amounts of banded Zn per tree also increased foliar Mn concentration (from ≈150 to 269 μg·g−1 dw) of treated trees the fourth year posttreatment but did not affect foliar concentration of other key micronutrients (i.e., Fe, Co, Cu, or Ni). This fertilization strategy offers an efficacious alternative to annual foliar Zn sprays for orchards established on acidic soils and provides a means of ensuring rapid and long-term Zn absorption through soil application. The approach indicates that soil banding of Zn on certain acidic soils can satisfy the nutritional needs of pecan trees for several years after a single application.

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Bruce W. Wood

The United States pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] industry is based on about 10,107,170 trees (about 15% nonbearing) comprising about 492,137 acres (199,168 ha) of orchards (34% in Texas, 27% Georgia, and 17% Oklahoma) dispersed among about 19,900 farm operations (36% in Texas, 16% Georgia, and 7% Oklahoma) in 24 states. Fifty-six percent of this acreage is on farms with ≥100 acres (40.5 ha) of trees (i.e., 5% of total farms). An evaluation of production related changes over the last decade indicate fundamental changes occurring in the nature of the U. S. industry. These include a) movement toward agricultural industrialization as reflected by fewer small-farms and more large-farms; b) reduced percentage of young (i.e., nonbearing) trees in most major producing states; c) substantial decline in number of farms and acres in the southeastern regionhistorically the primary production area-yet substantial growth in the northern region of production; d) a national 3% increase in the number of pecan farms and 14% increase in acreage; and e) substantial demographic changes, such as the enhanced importance of the southwestern region including New Mexico with diminished importance of many southeastern states. States also drastically differ in degree of biennial bearing, as measured by the biennial bearing index (i.e., K = 0.04 - 0.73; where 0 = no production variation and 1 = maximum variation), average production efficiency of both orchards [Epa = 192 - 1,224 lb/acre (215 - 1,374 kg·ha-1)] and trees [Ept = 19 - 60 lb/tree (8.6 kg/tree)], variation in grower prices (cv = 18 - 36%), and relationship between price and national supply of pecan (r 2 = 0.94 - 0.03). For the pecan industry as a whole, average price received for nut-meats is as closely associated with national supply of pecan nut-meats as that of almond and pistachio and is far better than that of walnut-pecan's primary competitor. The supply of pecan meats on-hand at the beginning of the season, plus supply from the current season's crop, plus the price of walnut meats accounts for 80% of price variation in average United States pecan meat price.

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Bruce W. Wood

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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Bruce W. Wood

Pecan growers often receive substantially higher prices for nuts if they can be marketed early in the harvest season, sometime doubling their profit as a result. Time of nut ripening (shuck dehiscence) is the primary limiting factor to the realization of early harvesting. It is now possible to advance shuck dehiscence by 10 days or more using hydrogen cyanamide (formulated as Dormex). A three year study using young 'Cheyenne' trees (6th leaf) indicated that budbreak, flowering, and shuck dehiscence could be advanced when treated with hydrogen cyanamide during the winter dormant season. The degree of advancement varied with the application date and concentration utilized. Results we most desirable when treatments were applied about 60 days before budbreak and application was at the 2% and 4% (480 and 960mM) levels. Hydrogen cyanamide had no detectable adverse effects on any growth, quality or production parameter.

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Bruce W. Wood

The factors regulating pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] pollen grain germination are poorly understood for both in vitro pollen viability tests and on receptive stigmatic surfaces of pistillate flowers. Potential regulating factors include flavonols, calcium (Ca), Ca-like alkali earth elements (AEEs), and rare earth elements (REEs). When various concentrations of certain naturally occurring simple flavonols (e.g., quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, naringenin, and hesperetin) were tested in vitro by adding to standard pecan pollen germination medium, hesperetin, myricetin, and kaempferol functioned as a strong agonist at low concentration (0.12–2.0 µm for hesperetin and kaempferol, and 0.25 µm for myricetin), increasing pollen germination 2- to 3.9-fold over flavonol-free media. Hesperetin and myricetin were antagonistic at 16 µm. Kaempferol was not antagonistic at any concentration up to and including 16 µm. Naringenin was an antagonist at concentrations from 0.12 to 16 µm; whereas, quercetin was an antagonist at 8–16 µm, but tended to function as an agonist at low concentration (0.12–0.50 µm). The equal molar replacement of Ca2+ in standard pecan pollen germination media by single REEs, resulted in certain REEs [e.g., yttrium (Y), gadolinium (Gd), and thulium (Tm)] partially replacing the obligate need for Ca2+; thus, functioning as agonists in absence of Ca. All non-Ca AEEs [beryllium (Be), magnesium (Mg), strontium (Sr), expect for barium (Ba)], also partially substituted for Ca2+ at equivalent molar concentrations, but none were as efficacious as Ca2+. Results are suggestive that a) pollen germination in in vitro test can be improved by incorporation of certain flavonols, and b) pollen germination on stigmatic surfaces of flowers in orchards might be influenced or regulated by flavonol composition and Ca-like metals in the liquid matrix of the wet (receptive) stigmatic surface.

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Bruce W. Wood

Excessive fruit drop (i.e., June drop) can limit orchard profitability of certain pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] cultivars. The present study examines efficacy of aminoethoxyvinylglycine (AVG; formulated as ReTain®; Valent BioSciences, Libertyville, IL), a natural ethylene inhibitor, for increasing nutmeat yield in a commercial ‘Desirable’ pecan orchard over a 2-year period. The 30-ha experiment consisted of two treatments (nontreated versus ReTain) in the first year, an “off” year in the orchard's alternate bearing cycle. The second year's study, an “on” year, consisted of four treatments (i.e., “08 nontreated + 09 nontreated,” “08ReTain + 09 nontreated,” “08 nontreated + 09 ReTain,” and “08ReTain + 09 ReTain”). AVG, as ReTain [132 mg·L−1 a.i. (11.7 oz/acre)], was applied as two post-pollination canopy sprays (937 L·ha−1) 2 weeks apart in both years. During the “off” year, ReTain increased nut yield parameters with ReTain increasing kernel yield by 36% (704 kg·ha−1 versus 516 kg·ha−1) over that of nontreated trees. In the subsequent “on” crop year, the trees exhibiting a ReTain-associated previous year yield increase of ≈36% exhibited a reduction in yield of ≈25%, thus largely negating the previous season's yield increase over a 2-year alternate bearing cycle. Additionally, ReTain-treated trees during the “on” year failed to exhibit an increase in yield parameters over that of the nontreated control. As a result of a lag effect on subsequent year yield parameters, ReTain offers potential as a crop-load management tool for ‘Desirable’ orchards in “off” years such as a year of relatively high nutmeat price followed by a year of relatively low price. There appears to be no positive effect on yield when used in a heavy crop-load “on” year of an alternate bearing cycle. Thus, ReTain might have benefit for stabilizing alternate bearing in ‘Desirable’ pecan orchards. Kernel quality (defined as percentage of nut weight as kernel) of individual nuts from “on” year trees was not as sensitive to units of yield increase as for individual nuts of “off” year trees, thus implying that the rate of assimilate partitioning to individual reproductive structures in “off”-year trees is not as great as that in “on”-year trees.

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Bruce W. Wood

Mitigation of alternate bearing (AB) through regulation of floral initiation of pistillate flowers is central to improving cropload management of pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] trees and orchards. The present study examines the influence of key bioregulators {i.e., an auxin [as B-napththaleneacetic acid (NAA)], a cytokinin [6-benylamino purine (6-BA)], an ethylene generator (ethephon), and an auxin transport inhibitor [2,3,5-triiodobenzoic acid (TIBA)]} on subsequent season pistillate flowering. Gibberellic acid (i.e., GA3) and NAA inhibited, whereas prohexadione–calcium (P-Ca; calcium 3-oxido-5-oxo-4-propionylcyclohex-3-enecarboxylate), ethephon, and BA + TIBA promoted floral initiation when topically applied to canopies before the kernel filling stage of seed development. These bioregulators exhibit potential for integration into a bioregulator-based strategy to mitigate pecan AB by selective and timely use in “off” or “on” cycle years, depending on the bioregulator. Field studies provide evidence that a “cytokinin–gibberellin balance,” with partial modulation by auxin and ethylene, acts in the endogenous primordial environment of floral meristems as a “second-level signal” regulating a key step in a three-step process for initiation of pistillate flowers in pecan. This establishes a new model for explaining pistillate flower initiation in pecan and a basis for designing future research on the control and management of pistillate flowering and AB.

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Bruce W. Wood

Economic loss resulting from nickel (Ni) deficiency can occur in horticultural and agronomic crops. This study assesses whether excessive iron (Fe) can induce Ni deficiency. Both chelated Fe and diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (DPTA; a commonly used Fe-chelant) induces Ni deficiency in pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch]. Foliar sprays of Fe [Fe-DPTA (1.1995 g·L−1)] during early post-budbreak shoot growth can trigger, or increase in severity, Ni deficiency symptoms in the emerging pecan canopy. Deficiency is also inducible in greenhouse-grown ‘Desirable’ seedlings at budbreak by Fe-DPTA application to soil and to a much lesser extent by DPTA alone. Endogenous Fe, just after budbreak, triggers Ni deficiency-associated distortions in pecan seedling leaf growth and morphology when the Fe:Ni is ≈150 or greater with subsequent severity being proportional to the Fe:Ni ratio and Fe:Ni ≈1200 or greater triggering extreme dwarfing of canopy organs. Timely treatment of symptomatic organs with foliar-applied Ni-sulfate restores normal growth, whereas foliar treatment with salts of other transition metals (titanium, vanadium, chromium, cobalt, copper, zinc, and molybdenum) of possible metabolic significance is ineffective. Results indicate that excessive endogenous Fe, and DPTA to a lesser extent, in organs and tissues during early post-budbreak growth can trigger Ni deficiency. A similar Fe on Ni antagonism may also occur with the Ni-associated nutritional physiology of other crops; thus, excessive exposure to chelated Fe not only triggers Ni deficiency in pecan, but may also occur in other horticultural and agronomic crops.

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Bruce W. Wood

Alternate bearing (AB) by individual trees is a major biological problem faced by pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] nut producers. The linkage between flowering and subsequent cropload with xylem sap characteristics at the time of floral bud swelling and expansion is unknown. Multiyear field studies of mature ‘Cheyenne’ and ‘Moneymaker’ trees, in “on” or “off” phases of AB, were evaluated regarding this linkage. Xylem sap flowing from trunks of ‘Cheyenne’ trees just before, and at the time of, budbreak (i.e., “late winter/early spring”) consisted of a variety of simple sugars. These were hexoses (fructose and glucose), a disaccharide (sucrose), polysaccharides (raffinose and stachyose), and sugar alcohols (xylitol and sorbitol). Sucrose was the overwhelmingly dominant simple carbohydrate at this growth stage, comprising 55% to 75% of the total molar composition, regardless of tree bearing status or sampling time during the seasonal transition from late winter to early spring as buds swell, break, and begin to produce shoots and flowers. Both sap flow volume and concentration of individual carbohydrates were much greater in “on” phase than “off” phase trees. “On” phase xylem sap contained ≈19.9-fold more sucrose than sap from “off” phase trees. The concentration of all sap carbohydrates was much greater at flow inception, declining quickly as buds transition from “bud swell” to “budbreak” and subsequent “shoot growth.” Depending on crop year, individual “on” phase ‘Cheyenne’ trees (≈25 years old) exhibited flow volumes 5.5- to 20.2-fold greater than “off” phase trees. In-shell nut yield by both ‘Cheyenne’ and ‘Moneymaker’ trees (110 years old) increased hyperbolically with increasing “late winter/early spring” sap flow volume. Sap flow from ‘Cheyenne’ and ‘Moneymaker’ resulted in near maximum nut yield when flow volume per xylem tap peaked was at ≈10 L/tree and ≈15 L/tree, respectively, over a 16-day sampling period. These findings are suggestive that sucrose, and possibly other simple carbohydrates, moving acropetally toward axillary bud meristems of shoots during “late winter/early spring” at about the time of “bud swelling” influences the final phase of floral development and therefore subsequent cropload.