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M. Lenny Wells

Little information is available regarding the activity of soil quality biological indicators in southeastern U.S. pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] orchards. The objectives of this study were to examine the effect of poultry litter application and the use of crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.) as a cool-season cover crop on soil chemistry and soil quality biological indicators, including mycorrhizal inoculum potential (MIP), microbial biomass carbon (MBC), and phosphatase activity in a southeastern U.S. Coastal Plain pecan orchard system. The use of clover as a cool-season cover crop between tree rows provided multiple benefits for pecan orchard soil quality, including increased MIP and MBC. Soil phosphatase activity was also enhanced by clover during two of the three years of study. Soil elemental properties, including total nitrogen (N), and soil organic matter (SOM) were also enhanced by clover and/or poultry litter, although there was an obvious time lag in the response of soil N to the treatments. Poultry litter application increased soil phosphorus (P) but did not consistently enhance soil biological activity parameters. At times, poultry litter appeared to neutralize or minimize the positive effects of clover on MIP.

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M. Lenny Wells

Nitrogen (N) fertilizer application to plants at rates not adjusted for the N contribution from soil N availability may result in overapplication of fertilizer. Further understanding of proper timing of N applications based on soil N dynamics and plant demand can be valuable information for the efficient use of fertilizer N. The present study measures soil N dynamics in a pecan orchard under various N fertilizer regimes on a southeastern U.S. Coastal Plain soil. The following treatments were evaluated: 1) crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.); 2) poultry litter; 3) crimson clover + poultry litter; 4) ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3); and 5) untreated control. Crimson clover provided from 20 to 75 kg·ha−1 N over the course of the two growing seasons; however, most of the available N from crimson clover became available late in the growing season. As a result, supplemental N may be required in spring where crimson clover is used as an orchard cover crop. Poultry litter, with and without clover, provided available N consistently throughout the growing season with more N becoming available later in the season than earlier. This suggests that poultry litter applications for pecan should be timed before budbreak. Under optimum environmental conditions, N from NH4NO3 is most available within the first 30 days of application. Thus, it appears that synthetic fertilizer applications using NH4NO3 as the N source should be targeted at or 2 to 3 weeks after pecan budbreak.

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M. Lenny Wells and Bruce W. Wood

Water-stage fruit-split (WSFS) is a relatively common and often major problem of certain pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] cultivars. This study evaluates the possibility that the malady can be influenced by improving tree micronutrient nutrition. Foliar sprays of boron (B) and nickel (Ni) to WSFS-susceptible fruit of ‘Cape Fear’ and ‘Sumner’ are evaluated based on the possibility that either B or Ni potentially affects the severity of WSFS exhibited by trees. Although the incidence of WSFS on ‘Cape Fear’ was unaffected by micronutrient sprays, the severity of WSFS was substantially reduced in each of the 3 study years by foliar B application and in 2005 by foliar Ni application. Repeated foliar sprays of Ni also reduced WSFS of ‘Sumner’ fruit. These data indicate that improving either B or Ni nutrition can potentially reduce crop loss resulting from WSFS in certain orchard situations and provides evidence that insufficient availability of B or Ni to developing ovary tissues potentially predisposes developing fruit to WSFS when environmental triggers occur.

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M. Lenny Wells and Eric P. Prostko

A persistent problem was identified in pecan (Carya illinoinensis) orchards throughout southern Georgia in which pecan trees growing in rows immediately adjacent to peanut (Arachis hypogaea) fields developed hollow pecans. In-shell nut size and appearance was normal; however, the kernels failed to develop. In 2008 and 2009, research was conducted to evaluate the influence of imazapic on pecan nut development in two pecan orchards located at the University of Georgia Ponder Research Farm located near Tifton, GA. Three herbicide treatments were evaluated, including imazapic at 0.17 kg·ha−1, imazapic at 0.30 kg·ha−1, and a nontreated control. Imazapic inhibited pecan kernel production and shuck split during both years of study. In 2009, leaf potassium was reduced by the low rate of imazapic.

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Bruce W. Wood, Lenny Wells and Frank Funderburke

Excessive Stage II fruit drop (i.e., June drop) often limits profitability of certain pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) C. Koch] cultivars. Anecdotal evidence indicates that one cause of drop is linked to a nutrient element deficiency. This study examines the consequences of improving tree potassium (K) nutrition on fruit drop, nutmeat yield, and kernel quality (i.e., % kernel) in ‘Desirable’ orchards in which generally accepted foliar analysis standards indicate satisfactory tree K nutritional status (i.e., 0.75% or greater to 2.5% K/dry weight). Multiyear field studies of two such orchards found that elevating leaf and fruit K concentration through soil banding of potash over drip irrigation emitters: 1) increased fruit retention by reducing Stage II fruit drop; 2) increased in-shell nut yield; and 3) increased nut quality by increasing percentage kernel. Potash applied through soil banding elevated foliar and fruit K concentration by ≈ 0.1% to 0.4% units within a few months post-application depending on the amount applied; however, the beneficial effects of a single potash soil band application diminished after the first year. A comparison of the K concentration of retained fruit versus abscised fruit during the Stage II fruit drop window found that retained fruit possessed endogenous K concentrations of 1.2% to 1.7% (dry weight basis) in one orchard and 1.45% to 1.9% in a second orchard, whereas aborted fruit possessed K at 0.65% to 1.2% in one orchard and 0.75% to 1.2% in a second orchard, respectively, thus establishing ≈ 1.25% K as a “drop threshold” under conditions of this study. The total K concentration of retained fruit is typically 0.25% to 0.50 K/dry weight greater than dropped fruit. Considerable K-associated late-spring fruit drop can occur in ‘Desirable’, although early- to midsummer leaf analysis indicates trees were K-sufficient, hence implying that young fruit likely possesses a higher K requirement than does foliage. These K-associated benefits to trees meeting accepted K sufficiency criteria is evidence that K nutrition management of ‘Desirable’ pecan merits r-evaluation and possibly pecan K nutrition in general.

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Lenny Wells, Jason Brock and Tim Brenneman

Many commercial pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] producers routinely spray foliar urea and sulfur (S) in combination with their fungicide sprays, despite very little information available in the scientific literature regarding the effects of these practices on pecan production. The objectives of this study were to investigate the effects of foliar application of elemental S and urea, alone and in combination, on pecan leaf tissue nitrogen (N) and S concentration, pecan nut quality, leaf chlorophyll index (LCI), and pecan scab control. Foliar S sprays increased pecan nut weight over the control in 2 of 3 years of study. Pecan nut weight was unaffected by foliar urea sprays compared with the control, but nut weight was lower for foliar urea sprays compared with foliar S sprays in the first 2 years of study. Neither foliar S nor urea sprays affected pecan scab incidence or severity. Foliar S sprays failed to increase leaf S concentration throughout the study. Pecan leaf N and leaf S concentrations were lower in the foliar urea treatment than in the control and foliar S treatments during the initial year of study; however, no treatment differences were observed for urea after Year 1. Foliar S application enhanced LCI in 2011 and 2012. Leaf chlorophyll index was also increased by the combination of foliar urea and S in 2012. These results suggest that foliar S sprays may provide pecan producers with a tool with which to maximize nut size and increase the profitability of their crop.

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M. Lenny Wells, D. Scott Carlson and R. Philip Edwards

The effects of mechanical fruit thinning on pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] yield, nut quality, and profitability were assessed using ‘Sumner’ and ‘Cape Fear’ pecan trees cultivated in a commercial orchard. The moderate to light production year (OFF year) return crop and return crop value of ‘Cape Fear’ and ‘Sumner’ was increased by mechanical thinning in the year of high production (ON year). This enhanced the 2-year total value and 2-year average value of both cultivars. Increased profitability of these cultivars with mechanical fruit thinning results primarily from higher yields and prices in the OFF year of production, which offset any loss in yield and/or crop value generated by fruit thinning in the ON year. Premature germination of ‘Cape Fear’ pecans was reduced from 34% to 4% with mechanical fruit thinning. Mechanical fruit thinning appears to be a highly valuable practice, leading to increased profit potential for ‘Cape Fear’ and ‘Sumner’ pecan.

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Michael W. Smith, William D. Goff and M. Lenny Wells

The productive life of a pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] orchard frequently spans two or more generations, but eventually orchards require renewal. Weather events damage tree canopies, pests affect tree health and productivity, and new cultivars offer greater yield potential or better nut quality. A popular method of orchard renewal is selective tree removal combined with interplanting new trees. Many old pecan orchards in the southeastern United States are infected with crown gall [Agrobacterium tumefaciens (Smith and Townsend) Conn.], potentially a problem for interplanted trees. Two tree types, nursery-grafted trees and seedling trees that were grafted 3 years after transplanting, were evaluated 6 years after transplanting. Transplanted trees varied in distances from established 80-year-old trees or residual stumps after tree removal. Ten trees near the study site, located 3.6 m from crown gall-infected stumps, were excavated to determine disease incidence. No crown gall was observed on any of the 87 trees in the study or the excavated trees. Trunk diameters of interplanted trees increased as distance from the nearest stump decreased and distance from the nearest established tree increased. Leaf elemental concentrations of the 6-year-old transplants were not related to observed growth differences. Conclusions include 1) stumps promoted rapid transplant growth; 2) crown gall infections of transplanted trees were unlikely even when crown gall symptoms were obvious on adjacent trees and stumps; and 3) transplant growth was suppressed by established trees.

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Timothy L. Grey, Keith Rucker, Lenny Wells and Xuelin Luo

Pecan production in the southeastern United States has increased because of the worldwide demand for the nuts of this tree. Information about the effects of the residual herbicides indaziflam and halosulfuron on newly planted pecan trees was evaluated over time for 4 years on sandy loam soils. After winter pecan tree planting, multiple spring or autumn herbicide applications were applied to the same pecan trees in different experiments in consecutive years. Visual injury, height, and caliper diameter measurements were taken up to six times during the growing season. Regression analysis of treatments over time indicated no differences in pecan tree growth for indaziflam at 73 or 146 g a.i./ha or halosulfuron at 35 g a.i./ha applied up to six times in 3 years, or for indaziflam at 37, 73, or 146 g a.i./ha applied up to five times in 3 years, as compared with nontreated controls. This information will benefit growers seeking viable weed control options when establishing new groves to meet the increased worldwide demand for pecan nuts.

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M. Lenny Wells, Eric P. Prostko and O. Wendell Carter

A large number of agronomic and horticultural crops are susceptible to injury and yield loss from drift-level exposures to synthetic auxin herbicides. A new generation of genetically modified crops including cotton (Gossypium hirsutum), field corn (Zea mays), soybean (Glycine max), and canola (Brassica napus) with resistance to dicamba and 2,4-D herbicides has been developed to address the problem of glyphosate-resistant weeds. In the few years since their commercial introduction, these technologies have been rapidly adopted. The objective of this study was to determine the potential effects of simulated, single drift events of 2,4-D and dicamba on pecan (Carya illinoinensis) trees. 2,4-D amine [3.8 lb/gal acid equivalent (a.e.)] or dicamba-Diglycolamine salt (4.0 lb/gal a.e.) were applied in 1.0%, 0.1%, and 0.01% by volume spray solutions to pecan trees in June 2013. In 2016 and 2017, 2,4-D choline (3.8 lb/gal a.e.) or dicamba-N,N-Bis-(3-aminopropyl) methylamine (5.0 lb/gal a.e.) were applied in 1.0%, 0.1%, and 0.01% by volume spray solutions to pecan trees in May. These results suggest that serious injury can occur to pecan trees receiving a drift application of 1.0% by volume dicamba or 2,4-D. This injury includes deformed foliage, dead foliage, dead limbs, and/or branches, and arrested nut development. There were no major differences in the response of pecan to either dicamba or 2,4-D at similar rates in this study. Pecan damage resulting from off-target movement of 2,4-D and dicamba at rates ≥1% by volume has the potential to cause significant injury. Yield was not negatively affected by any of the treatments, suggesting that pecan trees can compensate for the observed injury to some extent. The effect of treatments on percent kernel was variable.