FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
‘Because no two farms or orchards are identical, it is risky to conclude that there is a single “right way” in which orchards are to be managed. (Bruce Wood).
We recommend 12x6m which equates to 130 trees per hectare. A planting density of 10x10m is very popular (100 trees per hectare). We have plantations with 500 trees/ ha; 1000 trees/ ha as well as 250 trees/ha and each of these requires different management.
Our attitude to foliar sprays has changed from ‘maybe we should’ to ‘this MUST get done’. We regard this as an essential part of our management and seriously suggest that you do the same. We spray the trees every 7 – 10 days during the growing season. The first foliar sprays are done as soon as the buds break and we continue until the trees go dormant.
The planting holes should be big enough to accommodate the root system. The holes can be made using a TLB, augers or spades. We use either 250mm or 500mm auger bits to prepare the planting holes and afterwards square these using spades. The bigger the hole, the more management is required to align the trees in their rows. The bigger holes could possibly have an advantage for the developing root.
We do not put anything into the planting holes and all soil amendments, eg. Lime or gypsum are put on the top of the ground once the tree has been planted.
Who knows? Our viewpoint is that the future for pecans is very optimistic. China has become a major consumer of pecan nuts. China has the biggest population in the world and many are becoming more affluent and buy this product. China has become the biggest importer of South African pecan nuts. The pecan nuts produced in our area are of world class quality. Any commodity has its’ boom and bust cycles but if you are producing top quality nuts, you should not be shaken out when the cycle goes bust. The South African market for pecan nuts is sadly still under-developed. Pecans are healthy additions to any diet and populations, world-wide, are becoming more health conscious and are turning to nuts as a source of nourishment.
South Africa produces approximately 5% of the worlds’ pecans. However, most pecans are produced in the Northern Hemisphere. This appears to be a marketing advantage for South African producers.
This is very much a case of ‘choose your poison’. Markets, harvesting, susceptibility to scab, wind damage, region to be planted in and nursery availability are but some of the factors which have a bearing on your decision of varieties to be planted. As a pecan grower, we prefer pollinators to be planted in addition to the main type of tree. We plant approximately 80% Wichita (yields well); 10 -15% Pawnee, Navaho, Western Schley and Ukulinga (pollinators of Wichita) and 5% Choctaw (wonderful nut but strong alternate bearer which is pollinated by Wichita).
The pecan tree industry is still in the honeymoon phase. As more and more trees are planted, our pests are going to become more diversified and numerous. We have encountered yellow aphids, stinkbugs, white grubs (nursery trees), Christmas beetles (foliage in December – especially on Pawnee trees), snout beetles (Cape nursery) and fungal disease (Alternaria).
This is basically just the pinching the growth point of the branch off, i.e. if your potential scaffold branches have got a little long relative to the central leader, you will pinch the growth point of the scaffold. This will result in the strengthening of the branch, inhibit further lengthening and promote side shoots.
NEVER use raw manure on your trees because of salinity, hygiene and energy issues. We strongly suggest doing a thermal composting of the manure first.
You should use continuous logging probes to gauge how much water is required by the trees in your orchard. Mature pecan orchards require a lot of water and we estimate it to be the same amount of water as what you would use for double cropping maize and wheat –
1200 mm water/ hectare (including rain). Small trees require about 10% of this amount of water.
Mulches, cover crops, application (drip/ micro/ flood irrigation) and organic material all have a major role to play and can improve your water requirements dramatically. Eg. In our nurseries we have found that 40% shade-netting (this is not practical in a plantation) reduces our water usage by about 50%.