Native Pecan Orchard Management Using Best Management Practices
Native pecan trees predominate in the Red River Bottoms of Arkansas and are typically unmanaged. Since native pecans do not require extensive use of pesticides, as improved varieties do, production of these groves can potentially increase with only minor changes such as the application of fertilizers and the removal of plant debris under them. Production and harvest of native pecans in the area could potentially provide significant supplemental income for producers.
1.) Identify native pecan trees capable of bearing marketable nuts.
2.) Demonstrate management practices in native pecan orchards to increase production.
The producer has, to date, identified and marked 600 individual native pecan trees capable of bearing nuts of marketable value. After identifying the trees to be kept, he removed the trees identified as non-productive. Next he concentrated on orchard sanitation, removing all twigs, tree litter and damaged nuts. He also kept the grass cover clipped. He practices this degree of orchard sanitation in order to reduce the potential of insect buildup.
Tissue and soil samples for analysis were collected around the trees at designated sites. Fertilizer was applied to designated trees based on the soil and tissue results. The silt loam soils required little fertilization. Nevertheless, the foliar tests did point up some nutrient deficiencies. Consequently, the grower applied zinc in the form of ZnSO4 to the soil around the trees at the rate of 100 lbs/acre. He also applied 13-13-13 (NPK) at the rate of 350 lbs/acre.
The producer also tried a different method of fertilizing some of the trees, using broiler litter at the rate of one - two tons/acre. He timed this for the early spring so that nutrients in the litter were available during the summer months. The grower has found that the application of broiler litter has increased the production of many older trees.
Yields in 1996 were 40 lbs nuts/tree from the younger trees and 85 lbs nuts/tree on the older mature native trees. The grower markets the nuts through a local broker in Texarkana, Arkansas. The nuts are cleaned, graded and bagged for sale to several candy companies and confectionaries.
The grower receives an average of 65 to 75 cents/lb, but he has sold pecans for as little as 30 cents/lb to as much as $1.27/lb wholesale. He expects to make money on this project because his out-of-pocket production costs are about 35 cents/lb. A final project report will discuss further results.
The farm was featured in the March 1995 issue of Progressive Farmer magazine. Designated areas of identified trees are used as demonstration sites. The cooperators have conducted tours for local producers interested in this type of production system. They have provided information to approximately 23 area growers. Project results will be published in the Delta Farm Press, Arkansas Farmer and the Lafayette County Democrat. A field day will be held to teach local producers how to increase native pecan production on their farms.