Location: Fruit and Nut Research2011 Annual Report
1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
1. Provide improved horticultural tools for stabilizing pecan nut yields in alternate bearing pecan trees and orchards. 2. Develop an improved approach for orchard management of fungal diseases attacking developing fruit, based on enhancement of the tree's natural disease resistance mechanisms.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Objectives are achieved via research and development efforts to introduce to commercial pecan producers new horticultural tools to improve production efficiency of commercial enterprises. The approach focuses on alternate bearing and pecan scab disease via introduction of the following tools: a chemical-based thinning strategy for regulation of crop-load; regulation of flowering and alternate bearing via plant growth regulators; an improved “conceptual tool” for managing alternate bearing; reduction of chemical stresses by improved nutrient element management with emphasis on zinc; and induction of greater natural tree resistance to fungal disease pests (such as pecan scab) via improved tree nutrition and systemic acquired resistance inducers. The approach includes numerous lab, greenhouse, and field based studies, but with a great deal of emphasis on field evaluation of treatments in real-world commercial orchard situations. Extension specialists are included in the research efforts to facilitate transfer of knowledge, strategies, and technologies to farmers. The approach largely relies on adaptation of existing technologies to pecan horticulture, but with new technology potentially being introduced for transition and inner-transition metals, and registration of existing commercial products for usage on pecan. There will be dozens of research studies conducted, with experimental designs structured to test hypotheses associated with objective-linked postulates. Results will be disseminated to scientific, extension, and commercial individuals and groups via appropriate publications/articles, talks, and field-days.
3. Progress Report
Chemical thinning: Excessive inconsistence in calcium hydroxide sprays to fruit-thin pecan trees means that an alternative approach merits pursuit. Additionally, it was determined that direct chemical thinning of fruit is unlikely to be efficacious for pecan due to the small number of fruit per fruiting cluster. The approach subsequent progressed to using gibberellic acid in “on” phase cropping years to reduce return bloom in the subsequent year—i.e., indirect thinning. Retention of fruit in the “off” phase year appeared feasible via timely usage of ReTain (an ethylene inhibitor) to prevent fruit abortion in June. Alternate bearing: Research validates that flowering and alternate bearing is regulated initially via balances involving plant growth regulators and then subsequently via carbohydrate reserves during vernalization; thus, leading to new approach using timely treatments with certain plant hormones to regulate subsequent year flowering. Zinc stress: Field studies in Georgia, Oklahoma, and New Mexico indicate that usage of zinc enriched implants to give long-term correction of zinc deficiency fails to sufficiently correct low zinc problems; thus, leading to consideration of a new approach involving banding with fine textured zinc enriched rubber as a slow release zinc form as a long-lasting solution. Additionally, special isotopically labeled zinc is being developed to enable determination of how foliar zinc is moving within trees; thus, potentially providing a better and cheaper means of controlling tree zinc nutrition. Scab disease: Field studies on the roles of nickel (Ni) and phosphite (PO3) for improving tree resistance to pecan scab disease found significant efficacy for both against scab disease; thus, leading to research integrating both into practical disease management strategies. The discovery of high concentrations of the rare-earth elements in foliage is suggestive that they play a biological role in disease resistance; thus, this possibility is being studied. Scab resistance: Several commercially available agents are in the process of being tested, on seedling trees under field conditions, for triggering pecan tree resistance to scab disease. Molecular biology based research is now enabling better understanding of critical life cycle traits and fungi variability characteristics that can potentially lead to improvement in disease management in orchards. Systemically acquired resistance to scab: Several commercially available agents are in the process of being tested, on seedling trees under field conditions, for triggering pecan tree resistance to scab disease. Scab resistance: Molecular biology based research is now enabling better understanding of critical life cycle traits and genetic variability of the scab pathogen that will contribute to improvements in disease management in orchards through optimal use of host resistance.