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  • Author or Editor: M. Lenny Wells x
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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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The recent increase in the cost of synthetic fertilizer dramatically reduces the profit margin for pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] producers. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of clover and poultry litter on the orchard soil, horticultural, and nut quality parameters of pecan in the southeastern United States. 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. Application of poultry litter with or without clover often led to higher soil phosphorous (P) and potassium (K). Poultry litter application with and without clover led to higher leaf P in the final year of study. The recurring low pecan leaf K in the presence of clover without additional K application suggests that K nutrition may be especially important in orchards where clover is used. Clover and/or clover + litter occasionally led to enhanced pecan leaf concentrations of iron (Fe), copper (Cu), and zinc (Zn). Over the course of the study, yields were more consistent from year to year in the clover, litter, and clover + litter treatments, as indicated by the low alternate bearing intensity (I) from 2008 to 2011. Leaf elemental tissue analysis, pecan yield, and quality indicate that poultry litter and clover provide adequate nitrogen (N) nutrition for pecan production.

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Application method and placement can improve the efficiency of applied nitrogen (N) per unit of yield, potentially minimizing N loss and increasing the profit margin for pecan producers. The following treatments were evaluated for their effect on pecan leaf N concentration, pecan yield, nut quality, agronomic N use efficiency (AEN ), and alternate bearing intensity (I); 1) emitter-adjacent application of liquid urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) (28N–0P–0K) with 5% sulfur (S); 2) broadcast application of dry ammonium nitrate (34N–0P–0K); 3) broadcast-band application of dry ammonium nitrate; 4) broadcast ground-spray application of liquid UAN; and 5) untreated control (2009–12). Leaf elemental tissue analysis, pecan yield, quality, and alternate bearing intensity indicate that pecans can be effectively fertilized with N using any of the application methods used in the current study. Based on AEN , it appears that pecans can be effectively fertilized at a lower field rate of N than is currently recommended and that the volume of fertilizer applied to pecan orchards can be significantly reduced by minimizing the area in the orchard to which N fertilizer is applied and eliminating excessive applications to vegetated row middles, which apparently offer little additional benefit to pecan leaf N, pecan quality, or yield.

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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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A better understanding of the efficacy of various nitrogen (N) forms on pecan tree production would help growers make more sound decisions regarding the fertilization of their orchards. The following treatments were evaluated for their effect on pecan leaf tissue nutrient concentration, leaf chlorophyll index, trunk circumference growth, pecan yield, nut weight, percent kernel, pecan tree yield efficiency, and alternate bearing: 1) ammonium nitrate (AN; 34N–0P–0K) at 1.8 kg N per tree (AN1.8); 2) AN (34N–0P–0K) at 3.6 kg N per tree (AN3.6); 3) ammonium sulfate (AS) at 1.8 kg N per tree (AS1.8); 4) AS at 3.6 kg N per tree (AS3.6); 5) urea at 1.8 kg N per tree (U1.8); 6) urea at 3.6 kg per tree (U3.6); and 7) untreated control (C). Leaf elemental tissue analysis, pecan tree trunk growth, pecan yield, quality, and alternate bearing intensity (I) suggest that pecan trees are unaffected by differences in the fertilizer sources used in this study on the acidic soils of the Southeastern U.S. Coastal Plain. N rate also had little influence on measured variables. Based on these results and, perhaps more directly, upon agronomic N use efficiency (AE N ), it appears that pecans can be more efficiently fertilized at N rates of 108 kg N/ha compared with 215 kg N/ha under Southeastern U.S. Coastal Plain conditions regardless of N source.

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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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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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Previous studies with a variety of tree species have demonstrated enhanced flowering, fruit set, and yield with foliar boron (B) applications. The effects of foliar-applied B on pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] in the southeastern United States are poorly understood. This study was undertaken to investigate the effect of foliar B application on leaf tissue B concentration, fruit retention, and kernel quality of pecan. Controlled pollination studies showed no effect of B on fruit retention of ‘Stuart’ pecan. Tissue B concentration, fruit retention, and percent kernel of ‘Desirable’ pecan were occasionally enhanced by both two and five B applications made before and through the pollination window in multiple studies over 3 years. As long as leaf B is within the recommended sufficiency range, timing of foliar B application during the critical prepollination period appears to be more valuable for pecan production than are increasing leaf B levels. Given the production enhancements observed here, and the low cost of B fertilizers, the practice of foliar B application merits consideration as a component of pecan orchard management when tank-mixed with normal prepollination pesticide or nutrient sprays.

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