Pecan Tree Problems This Summer

Although a few trees usually die during the first two years after transplanting from pots to the field, a number of trees that were four years old died this last Winter. In most cases the graft died and the root stock sprouted new growth. But, on three Lakota trees that were planted in October, 2014, a relatively large limb that grew from near ground level on the trunk died, and the upper portion of the tree stayed alive as shown in the next two photos.

Another problem occurs when birds land at or near the top of the tree and break off the top. I do like to have birds in the orchard because they eat insects. But, when trying to train a central leader on each tree, this occurrence is frustrating.

Caterpillars in August

Whoa! What are these vermin feeding on the pecan tree leaves?

After removing hundreds of caterpillars that were feeding on the tree leaves by crushing them between my fingers, here is what little foliage remained.

The caterpillars had almost completely defoliated the tree before I noticed it. So far this is the only affected tree that I have found. And, here is a closer look at what the caterpillars leave behind after feeding.

There are lots of birds that feed on the insects in the trees and leave their poop on the leaves and protective fence that encircles each tree. Sometimes they even land on the limbs and break some off. So, why did the birds not find and feed on the hundreds of caterpillars that were on this tree?

 

Update On Last Years Graft

 

In February this year when I checked the grafts made in May, 2016, I came across the graft shown in the following picture:

The scion had only produced a couple of leaves during last Summer and it was less than two inches long  –   the prognosis did not appear to be good. Although in the picture above it appears that the scion wood had actually died, using a pruner to snip off the end of the scion revealed green cambium. So, instead of giving up on the graft, I decided to wait and see what would happen this Spring.

The following picture was taken in late July of this year and shows how the short piece of scion wood has expanded in girth and popped a bud with a strong limb. Note that the bark has still not grown over the staples. But, this years growth is impressive.

 

And, here is a picture showing the top of the tree which has added about three feet of new growth this year.

 

 

It is interesting to note that the variety of scion wood in this graft is Kanza.  In my experience trees of the Kanza pecan variety seem to have a will to live that exceeds that of other pecan varieties.

2016 – Year in Review

All the normal maintenance tasks listed in the 2015 year in review posting continued through this year. Again this year I sprouted some some pecan seed nuts and Chinese chestnut seed nuts and grew them in pots.  In November I transferred the potted trees to a straw bale fort and covered them with mulch to protect them during the cold winter months.

During October and November I planted 54 more trees from pots into the fields as follows:

– 12 grafted kanza pecan
– 6 grafted major pecan
– 25 seedling pecan
– 6 seedling shellbark hictory
– 2 grafted homewood Chinese chestnut
– 1 grafted gideon Chinese chestnut
– 1 grafted sauber black walnut
– 1 grafted sparrow black walnut
I am interested in growing cover crops to protect the soil.  So, in August, September, and October I sowed mixes of the following seeds in various fields to study how they grow in different soils with different sowing methods and at different sowing dates.

– daikon radish
– cereal rye
– radish
– sudangrass
– winter peas
– hairy vetch
– triticale

Over the next few years I need to decide what vegetation under the trees will facilitate harvesting. Also, I hope to get rid of the fescue grass that robs the soil of moisture.

These last four years have gone by quite fast. But, I am still in the beginning stages of establishing a nut tree farm. There remains lots of work and lots of learning for future years.