Submitted to: HortTechnology
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/23/2003
Publication Date: 1/1/2004
Citation: Wood, B.W., Stahmann, D. 2004. Hedge pruning pecan. HortTechnology. 14(1):63-72. Interpretive Summary: An ever increasing cost:price squeeze on the profitability of pecan farming is driving a search for alternate husbandry approaches. Alternate bearing intensity of orchards is a key biological problem contributing to this cost-price squeeze. This research shows that mechanized hedge pruning and topping is a viable option to traditional orchard management strategies; thus providing a means by which orchard managers can have greater control over the tree and orchard. Proper implementation can increase orchard nut yields and profits while moderating alternate bearing related yield fluctuations. The pruning strategy can be used effectively on essentially all pecan cultivars and offers pecan farmers an orchard strategy conferring many benefits affecting the cost:price aspect of pecan husbandry.
Technical Abstract: An ever increasing cost:price squeeze on the profitability of pecan (Carya illinoinensis) farming is driving a search for alternate husbandry approaches. Wichita and Western trees maintained at relatively high tree populations density, by mechanized hedge pruning and topping, produced greater nut yield than an orchard treatment in which tree population density was reduced by tree thinning (144% for Wichita and 113% for Western Schley). Evaluation of three different hedge pruning strategies, over a 20 year period, identified a discrete canopy hedge pruning and topping strategy using a 2-year cycle, as being superior to that of a discrete canopy hedge pruning and topping strategy using an 8-year cycle, but not as good as a continuous canopy hedge pruning and topping strategy using a 1-year cycle. An evaluation of 21 commercial cultivars indicated that nut yields of essentially all cultivars can be relatively high if properly hedge pruned [annual in-shell nut yields of 2200 to 3626 lb/acre (2465.8 to 4064.1 kg ha-1), depending on cultivar]. Comparative alternate bearing intensity and nut quality characteristics are reported for 21 cultivars. These evaluations indicate that pecan orchards can be highly productive, with substantially reduced alternate bearing, when managed via a hedge-row-like pruning strategy giving narrow canopies [3403 lb/acre (3814.2 kg ha-1) for Wichita and 3472 lb/acre (3891.5 kg ha-1) for Western Schley]. North-south-oriented (N-S) hedgerows produced higher yields that did east-west (E-W) hedgerows (yield for N-S Wichita was 158% that of E-W trees and N-S Western Schley was 174% that of E-W trees).