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Yi Gong, Ronald B. Pegg, Adrian L. Kerrihard, Brad E. Lewis, and Richard J. Heerema

Pecan (Carya illinoinensis) is a tree nut native to North America. Although inhibited light exposure (most specifically as a result of overlapping tree canopies) has been shown to impair yield, the effect of this factor on nut antioxidant properties remains unknown. This study investigated effects of mechanical pruning and canopy height position of fruit on pecan kernel antioxidant contents and capacity. Beginning in 2006, trees in a ‘Western’ pecan orchard in New Mexico were subjected to three mechanical pruning frequency treatments (annual, biennial, and triennial) paralleling conventional practices, while other trees were maintained as unpruned controls. During the 2012 to 2014 seasons, pecans were sampled at fruit maturity from three canopy height zones (“low,” “middle,” and “high,” corresponding to 1.5 to 3.0 m, 3.0 to 4.5 m, and 4.5 to 6.0 m above the orchard floor). In vitro phenolics contents and antioxidant capacities of the nutmeats were evaluated by total phenolics content (TPC) and oxygen radical absorbance capacity (H-ORACFL), respectively. Soluble ester- and glycoside-bound phenolics were quantified by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). For both TPC and H-ORACFL, results determined pruned samples had significantly higher values than unpruned samples (P < 0.001 for both comparisons), and that samples of “high” canopy height were significantly greater than those of “middle” height, which were in turn greater than those of “low” height (P < 0.001 for all comparisons). HPLC findings showed that in all three phenolic fractions (free, esterified, and glycoside-bound phenolics), nuts acquired from pruned trees had substantially greater concentrations of ellagic acid and its derivatives. Our findings indicate mechanical pruning of pecan trees and higher tree canopy position of fruit increase nut antioxidant properties.

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Richard J. Heerema, Dawn VanLeeuwen, Rolston St. Hilaire, Vince P. Gutschick, and Bethany Cook

Photosynthetic function in nut trees is closely related to nitrogen (N) nutrition because much of tree N is held within the leaf photosynthetic apparatus, but growing fruit and seeds also represent strong N sinks. When soil N availability is low, nut trees remobilize and translocate N from leaves to help satisfy N demand of developing fruit. Our objective was to describe shoot-level impacts of pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch.] fruiting on leaf N and photosynthesis (Pn) during kernel fill under a range of tree N statuses. Our study was conducted in a mature ‘Western’ pecan orchard near Las Cruces, NM. In 2009, 15 trees showing a range of N deficiency symptom severity were grouped according to leaf SPAD into low, medium, and high N status categories. Differential N fertilizer rates were applied to the soil around high and medium N trees to accentuate differences in N status among the three categories. Light-saturated leaf Pn was measured on fruiting and non-fruiting shoots during kernel fill in 2009 and 2010. After measurement of Pn, the leaflet and its leaflet pair partner were collected, dried, and analyzed for tissue N. Leaf N concentration was significantly lower on fruiting shoots than non-fruiting shoots on all three sampling dates. The tree N status main effect was also significant, whereas the two-way interaction of shoot fruiting status and tree N status was not. Photosynthesis of leaves on fruiting shoots was significantly lower than that of non-fruiting shoots on all sampling dates. These data suggest that N demand by the growing kernel reduced N in leaves on the same shoot. Consequently, Pn of those leaves was reduced. The effect of tree N status and shoot fruiting status was best summarized with an additive model where there is a larger relative reduction in leaf N and Pn for fruiting shoots on trees with low N status.

Free access

Richard J. Heerema, Dawn VanLeeuwen, Marisa Y. Thompson, Joshua D. Sherman, Mary J. Comeau, and James L. Walworth

Zinc deficiency is common in pecan (Carya illinoinensis) grown in alkaline, calcareous soils. Zinc (Zn)-deficient pecan leaves exhibit interveinal chlorosis, decreased leaf thickness, and reduced photosynthetic capacity. Low photosynthesis (Pn) contributes to restricted vegetative growth, flowering, and fruiting of Zn-deficient pecan trees. Our objectives were to measure effects of soil-applied ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA)-chelated Zn fertilizer on gas exchange of immature ‘Wichita’ pecan and characterize the relationship between leaf Zn concentration and Pn. The study orchard had alkaline and calcareous soils and was planted in Spring 2011. Zinc was applied throughout each growing season as Zn EDTA through microsprinklers at rates of 0 (Control), 2.2, or 4.4 kg·ha−1 Zn. Leaf gas exchange and SPAD were measured on one occasion in the 2012 growing season, four in 2013, and five in 2014. Soil Zn-EDTA applications significantly increased the leaf tissue Zn concentration throughout the study. On all measurement occasions, net Pn was significantly increased by soil-applied Zn EDTA compared with the control, but Pn was not different between the two soil-applied Zn-EDTA treatments. Leaf Pn in midseason did not increase at leaf tissue Zn concentrations above 14–22 mg·kg−1. Leaf SPAD consistently followed a similar pattern to Pn. Soil Zn-EDTA application increased leaf stomatal conductance (g S) compared with the Control early through midseason but not after August. Intercellular CO2 concentration was significantly lower for Zn-EDTA-treated trees than the Control even on dates when there was no significant difference in g s, which suggests that soil application of Zn-EDTA alleviated nonstomatal limitations to Pn caused by Zn deficiency.