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.
Richard J. Heerema*, Ted M. De Jong and Steven A. Weinbaum
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Richard J. Heerema, Dawn VanLeeuwen, Rolston St. Hilaire, Vince P. Gutschick and Bethany Cook
Photosynthetic function in nut trees is closely related to nitrogen (N) nutrition because much of tree N is held within the leaf photosynthetic apparatus, but growing fruit and seeds also represent strong N sinks. When soil N availability is low, nut trees remobilize and translocate N from leaves to help satisfy N demand of developing fruit. Our objective was to describe shoot-level impacts of pecan [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch.] fruiting on leaf N and photosynthesis (Pn) during kernel fill under a range of tree N statuses. Our study was conducted in a mature ‘Western’ pecan orchard near Las Cruces, NM. In 2009, 15 trees showing a range of N deficiency symptom severity were grouped according to leaf SPAD into low, medium, and high N status categories. Differential N fertilizer rates were applied to the soil around high and medium N trees to accentuate differences in N status among the three categories. Light-saturated leaf Pn was measured on fruiting and non-fruiting shoots during kernel fill in 2009 and 2010. After measurement of Pn, the leaflet and its leaflet pair partner were collected, dried, and analyzed for tissue N. Leaf N concentration was significantly lower on fruiting shoots than non-fruiting shoots on all three sampling dates. The tree N status main effect was also significant, whereas the two-way interaction of shoot fruiting status and tree N status was not. Photosynthesis of leaves on fruiting shoots was significantly lower than that of non-fruiting shoots on all sampling dates. These data suggest that N demand by the growing kernel reduced N in leaves on the same shoot. Consequently, Pn of those leaves was reduced. The effect of tree N status and shoot fruiting status was best summarized with an additive model where there is a larger relative reduction in leaf N and Pn for fruiting shoots on trees with low N status.
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.
Yi Gong, Ronald B. Pegg, Adrian L. Kerrihard, Brad E. Lewis and Richard J. Heerema
Pecan (Carya illinoinensis) is a tree nut native to North America. Although inhibited light exposure (most specifically as a result of overlapping tree canopies) has been shown to impair yield, the effect of this factor on nut antioxidant properties remains unknown. This study investigated effects of mechanical pruning and canopy height position of fruit on pecan kernel antioxidant contents and capacity. Beginning in 2006, trees in a ‘Western’ pecan orchard in New Mexico were subjected to three mechanical pruning frequency treatments (annual, biennial, and triennial) paralleling conventional practices, while other trees were maintained as unpruned controls. During the 2012 to 2014 seasons, pecans were sampled at fruit maturity from three canopy height zones (“low,” “middle,” and “high,” corresponding to 1.5 to 3.0 m, 3.0 to 4.5 m, and 4.5 to 6.0 m above the orchard floor). In vitro phenolics contents and antioxidant capacities of the nutmeats were evaluated by total phenolics content (TPC) and oxygen radical absorbance capacity (H-ORACFL), respectively. Soluble ester- and glycoside-bound phenolics were quantified by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). For both TPC and H-ORACFL, results determined pruned samples had significantly higher values than unpruned samples (P < 0.001 for both comparisons), and that samples of “high” canopy height were significantly greater than those of “middle” height, which were in turn greater than those of “low” height (P < 0.001 for all comparisons). HPLC findings showed that in all three phenolic fractions (free, esterified, and glycoside-bound phenolics), nuts acquired from pruned trees had substantially greater concentrations of ellagic acid and its derivatives. Our findings indicate mechanical pruning of pecan trees and higher tree canopy position of fruit increase nut antioxidant properties.
Richard J. Heerema, Dawn VanLeeuwen, Marisa Y. Thompson, Joshua D. Sherman, Mary J. Comeau and James L. Walworth
Zinc deficiency is common in pecan (Carya illinoinensis) grown in alkaline, calcareous soils. Zinc (Zn)-deficient pecan leaves exhibit interveinal chlorosis, decreased leaf thickness, and reduced photosynthetic capacity. Low photosynthesis (Pn) contributes to restricted vegetative growth, flowering, and fruiting of Zn-deficient pecan trees. Our objectives were to measure effects of soil-applied ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA)-chelated Zn fertilizer on gas exchange of immature ‘Wichita’ pecan and characterize the relationship between leaf Zn concentration and Pn. The study orchard had alkaline and calcareous soils and was planted in Spring 2011. Zinc was applied throughout each growing season as Zn EDTA through microsprinklers at rates of 0 (Control), 2.2, or 4.4 kg·ha−1 Zn. Leaf gas exchange and SPAD were measured on one occasion in the 2012 growing season, four in 2013, and five in 2014. Soil Zn-EDTA applications significantly increased the leaf tissue Zn concentration throughout the study. On all measurement occasions, net Pn was significantly increased by soil-applied Zn EDTA compared with the control, but Pn was not different between the two soil-applied Zn-EDTA treatments. Leaf Pn in midseason did not increase at leaf tissue Zn concentrations above 14–22 mg·kg−1. Leaf SPAD consistently followed a similar pattern to Pn. Soil Zn-EDTA application increased leaf stomatal conductance (g S) compared with the Control early through midseason but not after August. Intercellular CO2 concentration was significantly lower for Zn-EDTA-treated trees than the Control even on dates when there was no significant difference in g s, which suggests that soil application of Zn-EDTA alleviated nonstomatal limitations to Pn caused by Zn deficiency.