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Michael W. Smith, Becky Cheary, and Becky Carroll

March vs. October N applications in factorial combination with two P rates were evaluated on two pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) C. Koch] cultivars. Leaf N concentrations were not affected by N application time. However, yield of `Hayes' was increased during 4 of 7 years and cumulative yield was increased 37% when N was applied during October compared to March. Yield of `Patrick' and individual nut weight and kernel percentage of `Hayes' and `Patrick' were not affected by N application time. Phosphorus application increased leaf P concentration 5 of 7 years during the study. Shoot growth, yield, individual nut weight, and kernel percentage were not affected by P application.

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Michael W. Smith and Becky S. Cheary

Phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) deficiencies were identified in a ‘Pawnee’ pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) C. Koch] orchard. Deficiencies of P and K have traditionally been difficult to correct in pecan. Broadcast application of P rarely results in a positive response. Broadcast applications of K frequently require 3 or more years before a positive response was noted, particularly in soils with high clay content. A 4-year study was initiated on 10-year-old trees using soil band-applied P, K, blended P plus K, and a non-treated control. Rates were based on trunk cross-sectional area adjusted annually for tree growth. Phosphorus application alleviated leaf deficiency symptoms, increased leaf P concentration, and improved flowering. However, P application resulted in darker kernels than the control or K-treated trees. Band-applied K was not associated with observed leaf symptoms but increased leaf K above the recommended minimum level and increased the percentage of number-1 kernels. Band-applied P or blended P plus K suppressed leaf K concentrations. Blended P plus K applied as a band appeared to improve return bloom 2 of 3 years, although no improvement in leaf K concentration was noted.

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Michael W. Smith and Becky S. Cheary

Alternate bearing of pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] remains the leading problem of the industry. Several cultural practices have been developed or improved to mitigate alternate bearing. Premature defoliation was one problem identified that substantially decreased return bloom. The objective of this study was to determine the response of individual shoots exposed to various defoliation treatments. In one study, individual vegetative or bearing shoots were hand-defoliated in mid-September. Defoliation was the basal one-half, distal one-half, entire shoot, or not defoliated. Another study applied the same defoliation treatments to bearing shoots in July, August, or September. Defoliation had minimal effects on return bloom and rarely affected the percentage of current-season shoots fruiting the next year. Defoliation date also had little effect on return bloom. These data indicate that individual shoot response to defoliation was not autonomous and has implications for determining crop overload and needed mechanical fruit thinning.

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Michael W. Smith, Becky S. Cheary, and Becky L. Carroll

Newly planted pecan (Carya illinoinensis Wangenh. C. Koch) trees were grown for 3 years in a tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Shreb. CV. Kentucky 31) sod with vegetation-free circles 0, 0.91, 1.83, 3.66, or 7.32 m in diameter. Trees were irrigated to minimize growth differences associated with water competition from fescue. There were no differences among treatments in total shoot growth after 1 year, but trunk growth was increased by vegetation-free areas. During the second year, trees with a 0.91-m-wide vegetation-free area had twice as much shoot growth, and trunks were twice the size of those without a vegetation-free zone. The third year, trees with a 0.91-m-wide vegetation-free circle had 403% more new shoot growth, and trunks were 202% larger than those without a vegetation-free zone. Cumulative shoot growth was up to 559% greater with vegetation control. Tree growth was similar with a 1.83- or 3.66-m-wide vegetation-free circle, and trees in both treatments were larger than trees with 0- or 0.91-m-wide vegetation-free zones. Extending the vegetation-free zone to 7.32 m wide was not advantageous.

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Michael W. Smith, Becky S. Cheary, and Becky L. Carroll

Newly planted pecan (Carya illinoinensis Wangenh. C. Koch cv. Kanza) trees were grown for 5 years in a bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.] sod with vegetation-free circles 0, 0.91, 1.83, 3.66, or 7.32 m in diameter. Trees were irrigated and fertilized to minimize growth differences associated with competition from the bermudagrass. There were no differences in trunk diameter among treatments the first 2 years of the study. During the next 3 years, trunk diameter increased curvilinearly as the vegetation-free circle increased. A vegetation-free circle diameter of 1.83 m produced near maximum tree growth. Although trunk diameter improved slightly as the vegetation-free diameter was increased up to 7.32 m, it was not sufficient to justify the additional expense for herbicides nor exposure of unprotected soil to erosion.

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Michael W. Smith, Becky L. Carroll, and Becky S. Cheary

`Giles' pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] seedlings were either not mulched or mulched with wood chips arranged in a 1- or 2-m-wide square that was 30 cm deep. Mulch treatments were in factorial combination with two N rates applied as either a single application at budbreak or as a split application at budbreak and 3 weeks later. Tree height was positively related to mulch width each year of the 3-year study, and trunk diameter was positively related to mulch width during the second and third years of the experiment. Leaf P and K concentration during 2 years and leaf N during 1 year of the study were positively related to mulch width. Trees receiving the higher N rate were taller during 2 of 3 years, but leaf N concentration was not affected by N rate. No differences in the parameters measured were observed whether N was applied as a single or as a split application.

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Michael W. Smith, Becky S. Cheary, and Becky L. Carroll

Nitrogen was applied between 1996 and 2002 to grafted `Mohawk' pecan (Carya illinoinensis Wangenh. C. Koch.) trees at 75 or 150 kg·ha-1 either as a single application in March or as a split application with 60% applied in March and 40% the first week of June. In 1997 and 2001, a spring freeze damaged developing shoots and buds, resulting in a small, noncommercial crop and the June portion of the N application was withheld. Nitrogen was also applied during the first week in October at 0 or 50 kg·ha-1 N if the crop load before fruit thinning in August was ≥40% fruiting shoots. There were few differences in the percentage of fruiting shoots or cluster size associated with N rate or applying N as a single or split application. Leaf N concentrations were either not affected by treatment or the results were inconsistent. Omitting the June application when a crop failure occurred did not affect the percentage of fruiting shoots the following year. October N application either did not affect or reduced the percentage of fruiting shoots the following year, and had no influence on leaf N concentration in July or October. These results indicate that the only advantage of a split N application is the option of withholding the second portion in the event of a crop failure. However, the added expense associated with splitting the N application versus the risk of crop failure must be assessed for each situation to determine if this is a sound economic practice. These data do not support an October N application when the crop is ≥40% fruiting shoots to reduce irregular bearing.

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Michael W. Smith, Becky L. Carroll, and Becky S. Cheary

`Dodd' pecan seedlings [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] were chilled at 6C for 0 to 1800 hours in 300-hour intervals and percent budbreak and days to budbreak recorded. Chilling duration required for ≥ 50% budbreak was 900 hours. Chilling > 900 hours increased budbreak percentage and reduced time to budbreak. `Dodd' seedlings chilled at 1, 5, or 9C for 0 to 2500 hours in 500-hour intervals had more lateral budbreak after 1000 hours of chilling at SC than at 1 or 9C. When chilling hours ranged from 1500 to 2500, 1C increased budbreak of the first lateral bud compared with 5 or 9C. As chilling was increased from 1000 to 2500 hours, the days to budbreak declined, and the uniformity of budbreak increased.

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Michael W. Smith, Becky S. Cheary, and Becky L. Carroll

Vegetation surrounding pecan (Carya illinoinensis Wangenh. C. Koch) trees in a 4.3 × 6 m area was either controlled with a nonresidual herbicide for the entire growing season, not controlled, or controlled at certain times during the growing season. After three growing seasons, trunk diameters were suppressed 54% when vegetation was not controlled, 47% when not controlled until 1 Aug., and 37% if not controlled after 1 June compared to entire growing season vegetation control. Trunk diameters were not significantly different from entire season vegetation control when vegetation was controlled from 1 June through fall frost or vegetation controlled from April until 1 Aug. Vegetation in the plots was typically dominated by cool season herbaceous dicots in May and June, and warm-season grasses during August and September.

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Michael W. Smith, William Reid, Becky Carroll, and Becky Cheary

Pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) C. Koch] fruit were thinned from `Mohawk' trees in Oklahoma and `Giles' trees in Kansas with a mechanical trunk shaker. All trees bore an excessive crop load before shaking. Fruit thinning improved the kernel percentage, individual nut weight, and kernel grade of `Mohawk', but nut characteristics of `Giles' were not affected by fruit thinning. Cold injury, caused by a sudden temperature drop in November, was positively related to the percentage of fruiting shoots in both cultivars. Fruit set in 1992 was negatively related to the percentage of fruiting shoots in 1991 in both cultivars. Consistent annual fruit set could be induced in `Giles' by fruit thinning, but return fruit set in `Mohawk', even at high levels of thinning, was low. Fruit thinning reduced yield the year of thinning in both cultivars. Thus, `Mohawk' trees should be thinned so that 50% to 60% of shoots bearing fruit at mid-canopy height would remain, and `Giles' trees should be thinned similarly to 65% to 70%.