What is in this article?:
- Mechanical hedge pruning and topping of commercial pecan trees in the Southwest increase the income potential for producers.
- Pruning and topping help manage pecan tree size and improve orchard light penetration which can increase nut yields on lower branches.
- Hedging during the on-year reduces the amount of nut-bearing wood, fruit load, and is thought to increase on year nut quality; plus increases off-year nut yield and reduces alternate bearing, says James Walworth of the University of Arizona.
Walworth says continued monitoring of yield and quality in the orchard blocks are required to gain a better understanding of the long-term impact of the four-year hedging program.
Initial results suggest multiple benefits from tree hedging and topping in Southwest pecan production. The study at FICO suggests hedging “knocked down” nut yields - more so in Wichita than Western Schley. Wichita rebounds surprisingly fast especially in the second year. The overall rebound in Western Schley occurs in the third year.
The kernel percentage in both varieties declined after hedging which is likely the case in all pecan varieties, Walworth says. The average nut size decreases as the fruit load increases which is normal. Sticktight numbers increase after hedging.
“Alternate bearing appears to be substantially tempered by this particular hedging program,” Walworth said. “The four years of results give a pretty good picture of how trees respond to hedging.”
Walworth was asked about the best tree height and age when hedging should first occur. Hedging decisions, he said, should be based on when trees begin to crowd each other.
The research was supported by the Arizona Pecan Growers Association and the Arizona Department of Agriculture specialty crops program.
Richard Heerema, New Mexico State University (NMSU) pecan specialist, discussed the results from the first-five years of a planned 10-year study on mechanical hedging in pecans in the Mesilla Valley near Las Cruces.
Heerema discusses hedging and the New Mexico study results in a Western Farm Press video available here.