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  • Author or Editor: Bruce W. Wood x
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Canopy morphology of 83 pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] cultivars differed in structural, size, and form characteristics. Cluster analysis identified two to five distinct classes for canopy height and diameter and their ratio, inclination angles for both major limbs and young shoots with lower-order structures, branch types, and canopy form and volume. Cultivar-related variability in these traits may have the potential for the improvement of pecan cultivars for factors such as light interception, cooling, air movement, and fruiting; thus, there is potential for identifying the development of canopy characteristics adapted to specific site conditions or cultural/management strategies.

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Pecan is wind pollinated, exhibits heterodichogamy and are either protandrous (I) or protogynous (II). Orchards are typically established using two complimentary flowering types but with no further scrutiny as to the degree of compatibility of these two types. Additionally, orchards are sometime established with a very low frequency of pollinator. An evaluation of several orchards revealed that yield losses are due to poor pollination is likely common. Data indicate that trees beyond about 46 m (150 feet) from a complementary pollinator exhibit substantial reductions in fruit-set; therefore, large block-type plantings are disadvantaged. Flowering data over several years show that Type I and Type II cultivars are often functionally noncomplementary, suggesting that pecan cultivars should also be identified with a seasonal identification (i.e., early, mid, and late). Data also indicate that dichogamy patterns substantially change as trees age or with abnormally warm or cool springs; hence, pollination patterns will vary depending upon orchard age. Data indicate that orchards should be comprised of 3+ cultivars. RAPD-DNA analysis of “hooked-nuts” indicates that this trait is not reliable as an indicator of selfing.

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The desirability of controlling growth of large pecan [Carya illinoensis (Wangenh.) C. Koch] trees prompted the evaluation of paclobutrazol (PBZ) for growth suppression. PBZ was applied to 75-year-old ‘Stuart’ pecan trees via trunk injection (rates of 0, 50, 100, and 200 mg·cm–1 trunk diameter) or as a spray to the orchard floor (rates of 0, 19, 38 and 76 g/tree). Terminal-shoot growth and leaf area were reduced during 4 years after treatment in both studies. In-shell nut yield was reduced the third and fourth years after PBZ injection, but was increased the second year after soil application. PBZ can reduce terminal-shoot growth in large trees, but higher doses may produce a decline of nut production. Chemical name used: β-[(4-chlorophenyl)methyl]-α-(1,1-dimethylethyl)-1H-1,2,4-triazole-1-ethanol (paclobutrazol).

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The lack of satisfactory methods for clonal propagation of pecan [Carya illinoensis (Wangenh.) C. Koch] rootstocks resulted in the examination of mound stooling as a propagation technique. Semi-hardwood shoots from severed stumps received several treatments involving phloem girdling and IBA. Rooting occurred only in girdled or girdled plus IBA (3000 and 6000 ppm) treatments. Girdling triggered, whereas IBA enhanced, rooting. Roots per clone was related to shoot diameter but not height. Clones were able to survive harsh field conditions, thus providing a method for cloning rootstocks and facilitating rootstock research. Chemical name used: 1H-indole-3-butyric acid (IBA).

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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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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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Long-term productivity of commercial pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] enterprises in relatively low-light environments such as the southeastern United States are limited by excessive tree crowding as orchards age. An effective horticultural strategy for countering this problem in relatively high-light environments is mechanical hedge-type pruning; however, uncertainty persists regarding the best strategies in low-light environments. This report describes the results of a 4-year study regarding the response of ≈25-year-old ‘Desirable’ pecan trees to different mechanical hedgerow-type, moderate canopy width (i.e., 2.43-m cuts from tree axis) pruning strategies. Canopy treatments were nonpruned control (NPC), annual dormant season side-hedge pruning on two faces, annual summer season side-hedge pruning on two faces, and alternating annual dormant season side-hedge pruning on a single alternating face. Relative to the NPC treatment, all three pruning strategies: 1) reduced in-shell nut yields by roughly 19% to 38%; 2) reduced marketable nut-meat yield by ≈19% to 36%; 3) failed to stimulate shoot development or fruiting within the central interior zone of tree canopies; 4) increased kernel percentage of nuts; 5) increased nut-meat grade; 6) substantially reduced alternate bearing intensity (I = 0.51 to ≈0.20); and 7) reduced orchard crowding. Pruning-associated reductions in nut yield appear sufficient to limit the commercial usefulness of annual or biennial mechanical hedgerow-type pruning of ‘Desirable’ pecan orchards at moderate canopy widths in relatively low-light environments such as the southeastern United States.

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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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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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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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