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Danelle Cutting: We love pecans, but they can be finicky

insect damage

Cooperative Extension Phylloxera on pecan leaves brought to the Cooperative Extension office for identification.

Cooperative Extension Phylloxera on pecan leaves brought to the Cooperative Extension office for identification.

By Danelle Cutting

Rowan Cooperative Extension

Whether you say pee-CAN or pee-CON, pecans are delicious nuts and great for many culinary dishes. They are highly prized overseas, and that is one reason the cost of this nut has risen over the years.

Because these nuts are in such demand, many people worry about their precious pecan trees. I receive numerous calls and visits during the spring when leaves are coming out, during pollination or in the winter when nuts have dropped.

When people visit, they want to know what is wrong with their pecan, or why their yield is not good. When I ask them the variety of pecan they have, they are clueless since it has been there for many years.

Pecans can live for a long time, and most varieties really start to yield around 25 years of age. Some homeowners plant pecan trees and if they only have one or just one type, pollination is inadequate and probably the main reason for not getting any nuts.

The serious questions come when homeowners have had good yields in the past and want to know why that has changed. The first question I ask is if they have soil sampled their pecan. This is most very important. If you sample between April and November, there is no charge.

Pecans need fertilizer and zinc, but you need a soil sample to know exactly how much of each. Drought, humidity, disease (specifically scab), and frosts can cause issues with pecans. In North Carolina, we are really on the edge of the pecan growing area; they actually do best in the coastal regions. Some varieties tend to be alternate bearers and will only have a decent crop every other year. But if you get a disease, drought, insect problem or frost, you may lose your crop.

Weather plays a huge role in the growing of pecan trees. There have been times when things were great but during pollination, there was too much rain, and the trees were not properly pollinated. Frosts can kill, pack or stress the trees, while drought can cause the pecans to prematurely drop.

Insects and disease can be problematic, as well. Pecan weevils are the most serious pests for these trees. They attack the fruit, causing the nut to drop prematurely. Then, their larvae will feed within the nut. Scab is one of the major diseases and is quickly recognized by the dark spots on the leaves and shuck (outside covering of the nut). Selecting resistant varieties help reduce scab. An oddity is Phylloxera, where insects cause raised galls on pecan leaves.

So, what is a homeowner to do? Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot that can be done when it comes to disease and insect problems because you have to have specialized equipment to reach high into the canopy. To help reduce issues, it is best to select proper varieties for your area and to soil sample.

For more information on growing your own pecan, call your local Cooperative Extension agent, Danelle Cutting, at 704-216-8970, or visit:

http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/growing-pecans-in-north-carolina/.

 

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