Demand for New Mexico’s limited water resources coupled with periodic drought has increased the necessity for tree water status monitoring to guide irrigation scheduling of pecan (Carya illinoinensis) orchards. The objectives of this study were to assess the impact of water status developed during the flood irrigation dry-down cycles on photosynthesis (P n), and gas exchange [stomatal conductance (g S) to H2O (g H2O), transpiration (E), and intercellular CO2 (c i)] and to establish values of midday stem water potential (Ψsmd) that are needed to maintain P n and gas exchange of pecan. We conducted the study simultaneously on two southern New Mexico mature pecan orchards from 2011 through 2013. Flood irrigation as determined by grower practice was used on both orchards and P n, g H2O, E, and c i were assessed at Ψsmd of –0.4 to –2.0 MPa. Photosynthesis and gas exchange were higher in pecan trees shortly after irrigation than trees exhibiting water deficit near the end of a flood irrigation dry-down cycle. The decline in P n was markedly noticeable when Ψsmd dropped below –0.9 MPa. We attributed the reduction in P n mostly to stomatal limitation. The decline in P n and g H2O exceeded 50% when Ψsmd ranged from –1.5 to –2.0 MPa. For those reasons, we recommended that pecan orchards be maintained at Ψsmd higher than –0.90 MPa to prevent significant reductions in carbon assimilation and gas exchange.
Yahia Othman, Dawn VanLeeuwen, Richard Heerema, and Rolston St. Hilaire
Richard J. Heerema*, Ted M. De Jong, and Steven A. Weinbaum
Spurs are the primary bearing unit in mature `Nonpareil' almond (Prunus dulcis (Mill.) D.A. Webb) trees. Our objective was to determine whether almond spurs behave autonomously with respect to various biological activities throughout the season. If autonomous, a spur's carbohydrate demands are met primarily by its own leaves and, therefore, the sink to source ratio of the spur itself is expected to be closely linked to its growth and development. In these experiments almond spurs differing in leaf area and/or fruit number were monitored for leaf development, fruit set, floral initiation, spur survival and carbohydrate storage. Previous-season spur leaf area had no relation to the number of leaves preformed within the dormant vegetative bud or final spur leaf area in the current season, but spurs which fruited in the previous season began spring leaf expansion later and current-season spur fruiting was associated with lower spur leaf area. There was little or no relationship between final percentage fruit set at the spur level and spur leaf area in either the current or previous seasons. Current-season spur leaf area was positively related to both spur flower bud number and spur winter survival. Carbohydrate storage in dormant spurs increased with increasing previous-season spur leaf area. These data are consistent with the concept of spur autonomy especially with regards to spur activities late in the season. The relationships of some of these same spur parameters to spur light exposure are currently being investigated.
Marisa Y. Thompson, Jennifer Randall, Richard J. Heerema, and Dawn VanLeeuwen
Successful commercial pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] production relies on mitigation of alternate bearing, which is a function of pistillate flower production. Mechanisms of floral initiation in pecan are not well understood. Our objective was to assess the impact of select plant growth regulators (PGRs) on return bloom for commercial application in pecan trees grown in the Southwestern United States. A 2-year study evaluated effects of ethephon, aminoethoxyvinylglycine (AVG), and gibberellin GA3 (GA3) on subsequent season return bloom in fruiting and nonfruiting pecan shoots. Cultivars used were mature Western and immature Western and Pawnee. Effects of PGRs on return bloom of nonfruiting shoots were different from fruiting shoots. As compared with untreated control, a GA3 treatment on fruiting shoots of mature ‘Western’ trees increased the number of flowers per new shoot by 125%. For nonfruiting shoots on the mature ‘Western’ trees, the number of flowers per new shoot decreased significantly by all PGR treatments and as much as 93% for AVG. In previously nonfruiting shoots on the immature ‘Western’ trees, a GA3 treatment reduced the number of flowers per new shoot in the next season by 88.2%. Results from immature ‘Pawnee’ shoots did not show statistically significant differences. The effects of these PGRs on subsequent season flowering in pecan are complex. This study suggests that PGRs can be used to increase or decrease cropload through effects on return bloom and therefore have potential uses for mitigating alternate bearing.
Bruce W. Wood, Leonardo Lombardini, and Richard J. Heerema
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.
Jay M. Lillywhite, Jennifer E. Simonsen, and Richard J. Heerema
The U.S. pecan (Carya illinoinensis) industry is important to the country in both economic and cultural terms. Although the industry has expanded its export markets considerably, domestic pecan consumption has remained relatively flat. Expanding a domestic market is an important risk management strategy. To diversify, industry stakeholders may need to focus effort on growing domestic demand for pecans and pecan products, yet relatively little is known about U.S. pecan consumers because the majority of available information is garnered from supply side (production) data. This study used a web-based panel survey of 1009 U.S. food consumers to explore the demographics of pecan consumers, gauge their current tree nut nutrition knowledge, and examine the preferences surrounding their pecan purchases. Almost three-quarters (74%) of survey respondents consume pecans; demographic differences were observed between respondents who consume pecans and those who do not. Respondents’ knowledge of general and tree nut nutrition concepts varied. Respondents most frequently purchase pecans from a grocery store, buy them shelled as a raw ingredient for baking/cooking, and consume pecans four to six times per year.
Joshua Sherman, Richard J. Heerema, Dawn VanLeeuwen, and Rolston St. Hilaire
Southwestern U.S. pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] orchard soils are typically alkaline and calcareous, making micronutrients such as manganese (Mn) poorly available for root uptake. Manganese is essential to the light reactions of photosynthesis (Pn), but the level of leaf Mn for optimum Pn in pecan is unknown. Our objective was to characterize the relationships of foliar Mn fertilizer applications and leaf Mn nutrition with Pn over a broad range of leaf Mn concentrations. Two experiments were conducted from 2011 to 2012 (Expt. 1) and in 2013 (Expt. 2) in immature, nonbearing ‘Pawnee’ and ‘Western’ pecan orchards near Las Cruces, NM. To create differential leaf tissue Mn concentrations, four Mn spray concentrations were applied foliarly: 0.00, 0.34, 0.68, and 1.3 g Mn/L (Control, Low, Medium, and High, respectively). In Expt. 2, we added a higher Mn concentration (2.7 g Mn/L). Repeated measurements of leaf Pn were made beginning 1 week following a Mn application using a portable Pn system. Across treatments in both studies, final leaf Mn concentrations ranged from 21 to 1488 µg·g−1. Leaves treated with 0.68 g Mn/L had higher Pn than the other treatments in each experiment. In 2013, Pn rates of the leaves treated with 0.68 g Mn/L increased 7.1% and 10.4% over the Control for ‘Pawnee’ and ‘Western’, respectively. Our data confirm an association between leaf tissue Mn and Pn; the leaf tissue Mn concentration at which Pn rates are optimized in immature pecan trees was estimated to be 151.64 (±17.3 se) µg·g−1 Mn.
Yuqing Wang, Richard J. Heerema, James L. Walworth, Barry Dungan, Dawn VanLeeuwen, and F. Omar Holguin
Pecan (Carya illinoinensis) has high kernel antioxidant activity and unsaturated fatty acid content, which contribute to its nutraceutical properties. In the western United States, where soils are typically alkaline, pecan trees require frequent zinc (Zn) fertilizer applications to maintain normal canopy growth and nut production. Our objective was to investigate the effects of tree Zn fertilization on nutraceutical properties of ‘Wichita’ and ‘Western’ pecan kernels. Trees were fertilized with ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) chelated Zn, which was applied to the soil at one of three seasonal rates for a total of three treatments: 0 (control), 2.2, or 4.4 kg·ha−1 Zn. Nut samples were collected and homogenized for analyses of kernel oil yield, hydrophilic antioxidant capacity, fatty acid profile, and γ-tocopherol content. Although soil Zn treatments did not significantly affect antioxidant capacity of defatted pecan kernels, Zn application had significant positive effects on both total kernel oil yield and γ-tocopherol content compared with the control. In conclusion, soil application of Zn fertilizer may increase the human health-promoting aspects of pecan kernels, a valuable attribute among health-conscious consumers.
Jeffery C. Kallestad, John G. Mexal, Theodore W. Sammis, and Richard Heerema
For farmers to accurately schedule future water delivery for irrigations, a prediction method based on time-series measurements of soil moisture depletion and climate-based indicators of evaporative demand is needed. Yet, numerous reports indicate that field instruments requiring high in-season labor input are not likely to be used by farmers. In New Mexico, pecan (Carya illinoensis) farmers in the Mesilla Valley have been reluctant to adopt new soil-based or climate-based irrigation scheduling technologies. In response to low adoption rates, we have developed a simple, practical irrigation scheduling tool specifically for flood-irrigated pecan production. The information presented in the tool was derived using 14 years of archived climate data and model-simulated consumptive water use. Using this device, farmers can estimate the time interval between their previous and the next irrigation for any date in the growing season, in a range of representative soil types. An accompanying metric for extending irrigation intervals based on field-scale rainfall accumulation was also developed. In modeled simulations, irrigations scheduled with the tool while using the rainfall rule were within 3 days of the model-predicted irrigation dates in silty clay loam and loam soil, and less than 2 days in sandy loam and sand soil. The simulations also indicated that irrigations scheduled with the tool resulted in less than 1% reduction in maximum annual consumptive water use, and the overall averaged soil moisture depletion was 45.14% with an 18.1% cv, relative to a target management allowable depletion of 45%. Our long-term objective is that farmers using this tool will better understand the relationships between seasonal climate variation and irrigation scheduling, and will seek real-time evapotranspiration information currently available from local internet resources.
Marisa T. Potter, Richard J. Heerema, Jill Schroeder, Jamshid Ashigh, Dawn VanLeeuwen, and Cheryl Fiore
Pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] growers are advised to control orchard floor vegetation when establishing new orchards, but there is not a set recommendation for vegetation control in mature orchards. The objective of this study was to measure the effect of orchard floor vegetation on water and nitrogen (N) status of flood-irrigated mature pecan trees. Four treatments studied were: completely vegetated orchard floor, vegetation-free inner area directly under the tree canopy with vegetation in the outer area, completely vegetation-free, and vegetated inner area under the canopy with a vegetation-free outer area. Treatments were organized as a 2 × 2 factorial structure with inner and outer treatment factors, both with levels vegetated and vegetation-free. Soil moisture and tree midday stem water potential (MSWP) were measured during irrigation cycles to evaluate the development of water stress in the pecan trees. Soil moisture data showed a significant outer main effect when the soil in the entire orchard was the driest, that is, just before irrigation events. Areas with vegetation cover that were exposed to full sun were significantly drier than shaded vegetated areas and vegetation-free areas in the orchard floor. However, this was not correlated with differences in tree water status as indicated by MSWP. Leaf tissue and soil analyses showed no significant differences in N concentrations among treatments in either year. Treatments with orchard floor vegetation in the outer area had significantly higher yield efficiency and marginally significant improvements in percent kernel fill and number of nuts per kilogram. Our findings suggest that there may be more benefits to maintaining orchard floor vegetation in mature orchards than were previously acknowledged.
James L. Walworth, Scott A. White, Mary J. Comeau, and Richard J. Heerema
A field study was conducted to evaluate efficacy of soil-applied zinc (Zn) fertilizer on young pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] trees growing in alkaline, calcareous soils. Chelated Zn ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (ZnEDTA) was applied at rates of 0, 2.2, or 4.4 kg·ha−1 of Zn via injection into irrigation water (fertigation) in microsprinkler irrigated ‘Western’ and ‘Wichita’ trees. Over the 5-year duration of the study, leaf Zn levels were increased from 22 to 35 µg·g−1 in the highest rate of ZnEDTA treatment compared with 7 to 14 µg·g−1 in unfertilized trees. Zn concentrations in shoot and root tissues were also elevated in Zn-treated trees. Zn treatments largely eliminated visible Zn deficiency symptoms, and increased trunk diameter growth compared with untreated trees. Nut yield (in the third through fifth seasons) were also increased as a result of Zn fertilization. No additional benefit in terms of trunk diameter growth or nut yield was observed by adding a higher rate of Zn (4.4 kg·ha−1) vs. the lower rate (2.2 kg·ha−1). ‘Western’ and ‘Wichita’ trees responded similarly to Zn fertigation.