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  • Author or Editor: Becky L. Carroll x
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Pecan (Carya illinoinensis) shells are waste products that are occasionally used for mulch in ornamental landscape settings, yet most shell waste is left in piles near the shelling facility or discarded by other methods. If another use for this waste product could be developed, it may add income for pecan producers and provide peach (Prunus persica) growers with another option for weed control. A block of ‘Loring’ peach trees grafted onto ‘Halford’ rootstocks was planted at a spacing of 18 × 22 ft in Feb. 2005 at the Cimarron Valley Research Station near Perkins, OK, to determine the effect of pecan shell mulch on peach trees. Five treatments were imposed: no weed control except mowing (MOW), weed-free 6- × 6-ft area maintained with glyphosate herbicide (SPRAY), 6-ft × 6-ft × 2-inch deep mulch (TWO), 6-ft × 6-ft × 4-inch deep mulch (FOUR), and 6-ft × 6-ft × 6-inch deep mulch (SIX). Yields in 2008 were poorest in the MOW treatment (13.2 kg/tree and 93 fruit/tree). All other treatments did not differ. Soluble solids concentration as a measure of fruit quality and fruit weight was unaffected by treatment. Tree height, pruning weights, and trunk cross-sectional area were similar with the exception that MOW was lower for all three growth measurements beginning in 2007. Pecan mulch appears to have the potential to reduce soil pH. Foliar analysis for nitrogen (N), potassium (K), and zinc (Zn) showed treatment differences in 2006. No treatment differences were evident in 2007 and 2008 for K and Zn, but in 2008, FOUR had greater N than MOW. Tree mortality increased with pecan mulch depth. MOW, SPRAY, and TWO had little tree loss (0%–5%), whereas FOUR and SIX had 15% and 35% mortality, respectively. Tree mortality was attributed to record rains in 2007 coupled with longer soil moisture retention under the deeper mulch.

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Nitrogen was applied to mature pecan (Carya illinoinensis Wangenh. C. Koch.) trees annually as a single application at 125 kg·ha-1 N in March or as a split application with 60% (75 kg·ha-1 N) applied in March and the remaining 40% (50 kg·ha-1 N) applied during the first week of October. Nitrogen treatment did not affect yield, and had little effect on the amount of N absorbed. Nitrogen absorption was greater between budbreak and the end of shoot expansion than at other times of the year. Substantial amounts of N were also absorbed between leaf fall and budbreak. Little N was absorbed between the end of shoot expansion and leaf fall, or tree N losses met or exceeded N absorption. Pistillate flowers and fruit accounted for a small portion of the tree's N; ≈0.6% at anthesis and 4% at harvest. The leaves contained ≈25% of the tree's N in May and ≈17% when killed by freezing temperatures in November. Leaves appeared to contribute little to the tree's stored N reserves. Roots ≥1 cm diameter were the largest site of N storage during the winter. Stored N reserves in the perennial parts of the tree averaged 13% of the tree's total N over a three year period. Current year's N absorption was inversely related to the amount of stored N, but was not related to the current or previous year's crop load.

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