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  • Author or Editor: Bruce W. Wood x
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Mouse-ear (ME) is a severe growth disorder affecting pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] trees from southeastern U.S. Gulf Coast Coastal Plain orchards. Slight to moderate ME was substantially corrected by foliar sprays of either Cu or GA3 shortly after budbreak, but sprays were ineffective for severely mouse-eared trees. Applications of Cu, S, and P to the soil surface of moderately affected trees corrected deficiencies after three years. Incorporation of Cu or P in backfill soils of newly planted trees prevented ME, whereas incorporation of Zn or Ca induced ME and Mn was benign. The severe form of ME, commonly exhibited by young trees, appears to be linked to a physiological deficiency of Cu and/or Ni at the time of budbreak. It likely occurs as a replant problem in second-generation orchards due to accumulation of soil Zn from decades of foliar Zn applications to correct Zn deficiency.

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The discovery of nickel (Ni) deficiency in field plantings of pecan [Caryaillinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] (Wood et al., 2004) has led to efforts to identify appropriate management approaches to correct tree deficiency and to identify the causes for Ni deficiency. Evaluation of several inorganic and organic forms of Ni have indicated that solutions from all sources function well to correct deficiencies when timely applied as a foliar spray to affected trees at Ni concentrations >10 mg·L-1. Addition of urea, ammonium nitrate, or nicotinic acid to Ni spray solutions increased apparent foliar uptake from Ni sprays. The lower critical level of Ni, based on foliar analysis, appears to be in the 3-5 mg·L-1 dw range, with the upper critical level appearing to be >50 mg·L-1 dw. The cause of Ni deficiency in soils possessing plenty of Ni is associated with excessive amounts of one or more metals (e.g., Ca, Mg, Fr, Mn, Cu, and Zn) that inhibit Ni uptake and/or utilization. Root damage by nematode feeding and cool/dry soils during early spring also contributes to Ni deficiency. Foliar application of Ni to foliage in the autumn and subsequent appearance of Ni in dormant season shoot tissues indicates that Ni can be mobilized from senescing foliage to dormant season shoots and is therefore available for early spring growth. Evidence indicates that pecan has a higher Ni requirement than most other crop species because it transports nitrogenous substances as ureides. Thus, there is evidence that Ni-metalloenzymes are playing either a direct or indirect role in ureide and nitrogen metabolism. It is postulated that crop species that are most likely to exhibit field level Ni deficiencies are those that transport N as ureides. Candidate crops will be discussed.

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Insufficient fruit retention limits profitability of certain pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] cultivars. The present study examined efficacy of aminoethoxyvinylglycine (formulated as ReTain®; Valent BioSciences, Libertyville, IL), a natural ethylene inhibitor, for increasing crop-load through increased fruit retention in pecan trees grown at three distinct locations within the U.S. pecan belt. Several years of field studies found that timely postpollination ReTain® sprays [132 mg·L−1 a.i. (11.7 oz./acre)] to canopies could increase fruit retention of ‘Desirable’ and increase crop yield by 16% to 38% in trees carrying a “moderate to heavy” crop. ReTain® did not detectably increase fruit retention on trees carrying a “light” crop-load. The ReTain®-associated increase in yield of “heavy” crop-load trees did not necessarily decrease subsequent year yield. ReTain® appears to offer commercial potential as a crop-load management tool for ‘Desirable’ through regulation of Stage II drop (i.e., June-drop), but may not be efficacious for all cultivars.

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Long-established native tree populations reflect local adaptations. Representation of diverse populations in accessible ex situ collections that link information on phenotypic expression to information on spatial and temporal origination is the most efficient means of preserving and exploring genetic diversity, which is the foundation of breeding and crop improvement. Throughout North America, sympatric Carya species sharing the same ploidy level tend to hybridize, permitting gene flow that contributes to regional diversity and adaptation. The topographic isolation of many fragmented populations, some of which are small, places native Carya populations of United States, Mexico, and Asia in a vulnerable position and justifies systematic collection and characterization. The characterization of indigenous Mexican pecan and other Carya populations will facilitate use for rootstocks and scion breeding and will contribute to pecan culture. The Asian species, as a group, are not only geographically isolated from North American species, but also occur in disjunct, fragmented populations isolated from other Asian species. Section Sinocarya includes the members of the genus most vulnerable to genetic loss. With all species, recognition of utility based on characterization of ex situ collections may contribute to the establishment of in situ reserves. Global Carya genetic resources should be cooperatively collected, maintained, characterized, and developed. The integration of crop wild relatives into characterization and breeding efforts represents a challenging opportunity for both domestic and international cooperation. Genomic tools used on the accessible collections of the National Collection of Genetic Resources for Pecans and Hickories (NCGR-Carya) offer great potential to elucidate genetic adaptation in relation to geographic distribution. The greatest progress will be made by integrating the disciplines of genetics, botany, pathology, entomology, ecology, and horticulture into internationally cooperative efforts. International germplasm exchange is becoming increasingly complicated by a combination of protectionist policies and legitimate phytosanitary concerns. Cooperative international evaluation of in situ autochthonous germplasm provides a valuable safeguard to unintended pathogen exchange associated with certain forms of germplasm distribution, while enabling beneficial communal exploration and directed exchange. This is threatened by the “proprietary” focus on intellectual property. The greatest risk to the productive development of the pecan industry might well be a myopic focus on pecan production through the lens of past practice. The greatest limitation to pecan culture in the western United States is reduced water quantity and quality; in the eastern United States the challenge is disease susceptibility; and insufficient cold hardiness in the northern United States. The greatest benefit for the entire industry might be achieved by tree size reduction through both improved rootstocks and scions, which will improve both nut production and tree management, impacting all areas of culture. This achievement will likely necessitate incorporation of crop wild relatives in breeding, broad cooperation in the testing leading to selection, and development of improved methods linking phenotypic expression to genomic characterization. The development of a database to appropriately house information available to a diverse research community will facilitate cooperative research. The acquisition of funds to pursue development of those tools will require the support of the pecan industry, which in the United States, is regionally fragmented and focused on marketing rather than crop development.

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The influence of pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] leaflet bronzing, a discoloration of the lower surface, on foliar physiology and nut-meat yield is unknown. Field investigations indicate that bronzing can adversely affect foliage by reducing net photoassimilation (A), stomatal conductance (sgw ), and transpiration (E) while also altering stomatal aperture and cellular structure, and increasing temperature. Kernel weight and fill percentage are also reduced. Research indicated that foliar A declined in proportion to degree of bronze coloration, with negative A exhibited by heavily bronzed foliage. A by bronzed foliage did not increase as light levels exceeded ≈250 μmol·m-2·s-1. Within the same compound leaf, nonbronzed leaflets adjacent to bronzed leaflets exhibited greater than normal A. Bronzed leaflets also exhibited lower sgw to water vapor, less transpirational H2O loss, and higher afternoon leaf temperature. Light micrographs of bronzed foliage indicated abnormal epidermal and spongy mesophyll cells. Weight and percentage of kernel comprising the nut declined on shoots supporting foliage bronzing in July to August, but was unaffected when bronzing occurred in September to October. Bronzing of pecan foliage can therefore be of both physiological and economic significance.

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The economic cost of pecan scab, caused by Fusicladium effusum G. Winter, can substantially limit profitability of pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] cultivation in humid environments. Laboratory, greenhouse, and field studies found nickel (Ni) to inhibit growth of F. effusum and reduce disease severity on fruit and foliage of orchard trees. Nickel was toxic to the fungus in vitro at concentrations applied to orchard trees, and Ni sprays reduced scab severity on foliage of pecan seedlings in greenhouse experiments. Host genotype appears to influence Ni efficacy with fruit tissue of cultivars of intermediate resistance (i.e., ‘Desirable’) being most responsive to treatment and those most susceptible to scab (i.e., ‘Wichita’ and ‘Apache’) being least responsive. Addition of Ni as a nutritional supplement applied in combination with fungicides applied as air-blast sprays to commercial orchards reduced severity of scab on both leaves and fruit depending on cultivar and date of disease assessment (e.g., scab severity on fruit was reduced by 6% to 52% on ‘Desirable’ in an orchard setting). Nickel-supplemented fungicide sprays to ‘Desirable’ trees in commercial orchards also increased fruit weight and kernel filling, apparently from improved disease control. Although the efficacy of Ni was typically much less than that of triphenyltin hydroxide (TPTH), a standard fungicide used in commercial orchards, Ni treatment of tree canopies for increasing tree Ni nutrition slightly lowered disease severity. These studies establish that foliar Ni use in orchards potentially reduces severity of scab on foliage and fruit in scab-prone environments. The inclusion of Ni with fungicides for management of pecan scab might reduce disease severity over that conferred by fungicide alone, especially if targeted cultivars possess at least a moderate degree of scab resistance. Similar benefit from Ni sprays might also occur in host–fungi interactions involving other crops.

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Staminate and pistillate flower maturity of 80 cultivars of young (<15 years old) pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] trees are presented. These patterns show that pollination and receptivity windows within the flowering season can be divided into very early, early, mid, late, and very late season protandrous (Type I) and protogynous (Type II) types. This system therefore provides a seasonally based 30-class Type I and Type II alternative to the standard two-class Type I and Type II system, thus offering enhanced resolution of flowering intervals and an improved means of selecting cultivars to ensure cross-pollination of yard and orchard trees. Scott-Knott cluster analysis of budbreak, nut ripening date, and date of autumn leaf drop segregated cultivars into one of several categories.

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