More and more agricultural producers have been turning to pecans as an additional source of income.

While pecans are a long-term investment, careful planning during planting can positively affect future production. Below, Charles Rohla, Ph.D., a horticulturist with The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, offers a few tips.

When planting pecan orchards, producers have two options for establishment: container trees or bareroot trees. Bareroot trees are the common trend and are planted while they are dormant. These trees will have a taproot around 30 inches long with few lateral or hair roots.

The most important step in planting is to dig a hole 8 to 10 inches in diameter and 18 to 20 inches deep. Rohla suggests “scarring up” the sidewalls of the hole once it’s dug to help prevent the soil from becoming packed against the wall.

“If the soil does become too packed,” Rohla said, “an impermeable wall could form causing a bowl effect. This bowl will hold water and possibly damage the root system.”

The next step includes cutting the taproot and trimming back all lateral roots so the tree fits inside the hole. However, the tree must be planted at the same depth it was planted at the nursery.

“Firmly pack the soil that was removed from the hole back around the tree.” Rohla said. “This removes any air pockets around the root system. Once the tree is planted, cut one-third to one-half of the top off the tree. This will balance the root-to-shoot ratio and encourage growth.”

Rohla stressed that the most important step of all is to water the tree thoroughly to prevent air pockets left around the roots. Air pockets can dry the roots and kill the tree.

Additionally, Rohla said controlling grass and weeds around the base of the tree can increase its chances of survival.

One fact that often overlooked is that young pecan trees require zinc fertilizer. A foliar spray of zinc sulfate should be used every two to three weeks from bud break through the first of August, Rohla said, adding that monitoring the usage is a necessity because leaves can burn from excess zinc.

For more information about pecan tree growing or other agricultural production issues, visit the Noble Foundation’s Web site.