As the nuts grow....

The pecan trees have set a nice crop; it is up to us to bring it to fruition...

With the start of summer upon us, we appear to have a good nut set on our trees. The insect pressure in our orchard, which is always one of the big threats to reduce the crop, is very low at this time.

The first image below shows one of the larger clusters that we have in our orchard, with a total of six nuts. Most of our clusters have two or three nuts. If all of the clusters had five or six nuts, we would have to mechanically reduce the nut load in July by shaking each heavily loaded tree. These nuts are free from insect damage, and the green shuck, the outer covering of the nut, is developing normally.

The trees in the second image have healthy leaf set, which is critical for normal nut development. We don't use synthetic chemical fertilizer in our orchard; we use cow manure, and various ground-up rock products to provide potassium and phosphate. In normal fertilizer, the phosphate is water soluble, and much of it washes away with the rain to pollute local waterways. Rock based phosphate releases slowly over a long time period, reducing the amount that leaves the orchard with either rain or irrigation run-off.

The third close-up shot shows a nut cluster forming at almost every terminal branch, indicating that this tree is loaded with pecans. One of the greatest challenges for all pecan growers is the mystery of alternate bearing, whereby trees alternate a heavy crop one year with a light or non-existent crop the following year.

The following picture shows a limb so loaded with nuts that it is already sagging towards the ground. In pecan orchards, limbs often get so heavy with developing nuts that they actually break off from the tree late in the season!

Work is currently underway to get the orchard floor smooth for the fall harvest. In conventional orchards, vegetation is controlled by spraying glyphosate, which insantly kills many grasses and broadleaf species. The effect of glyphosate on the bacteria and microbial life in the soil is unknown. In organic farming, having a healthy, balanced soil is our number one priority.

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Written on Wednesday, 15 June 2005 00:00 by Bob Ackerley

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