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Fertilize Old Pecan Trees to Improve Production

Have you ever wondered why the nuts on your pecan tree are undeveloped?  There are several pests that pecan trees can get.  These pests include pecan scab, downy spot disease, fungal leaf scorch, pecan phylloxera, and black pecan aphids.  These pests decrease the productivity of the tree.  Homeowners can not spray big pecan trees like the commercial growers.  But, planting disease resistant trees, along with proper fertilization, will help your pecan production.

Some of the recommended pecans that are scab resistant are hard to find at nurseries and may need to be ordered a year in advance. Pecan nurseries and much more information on pecan trees are listed on the Alabama Pecan Growers Web site at www.alabamapecangrowers.com.

Cross-pollination should be considered when planting pecan trees.  A particular pecan cultivar does not receive pollen at the same time the tree sheds pollen. Generally, the more different cultivars (types) of trees in the planting, the greater the chance for cross-pollination.

If you already have an established pecan orchard, fertilization is about the only way to increase production.  Of course a soil test is the best way to know for sure how much to fertilize your pecan trees.  But if you have not had a soil test done, there are some general guidelines to follow for fertilizing your pecan trees.

You should apply the following:  1 pound of 13-13-13 per tree per year of age up to 25 pounds per tree.  Plus, 1 pound of ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) per tree per year of age up to 20 pounds per tree.  Plus, 1/10 pound of zinc sulfate per tree per year of age up to 2 pounds per tree.  Plus, 5 pounds of dolomitic limestone per tree per year age up to 100 pounds per tree.

That may sound confusing.  Basically, if your trees are more than 25 years old you need 25 pounds of 13-13-13, 20 pounds of ammonia nitrate, 2 pounds of zinc, and 100 pounds of lime per year per tree.

For large trees, apply all of the fertilizer in March.  For younger trees, apply all of the 13-13-13 fertilizer, lime, and zinc in March.  Apply half the ammonium nitrate in April and the remainder in June.

The use of a mechanical spreader may help ensure an even application of the fertilizers.  Do not disturb the soil before applying the fertilizer.  Spread it under and around the tree in an area twice the branch spread of the tree.  The dolomite lime is the cheapest, but pelletized lime is easier to spread.

Remember that many pecan trees tend to be alternate bearers.  That means if they produce a heavy crop one year they may produce a light crop the next year.  Fertilizing is very important, but there are other things you can do to increase production.

Overcrowding can be a problem.  When the trees are close together and the limbs begin to overlap you may want to remove a few limbs.  This will increase air circulation and sunlight in the canopy of the tree. Mulching the trees can also help.