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October 12, 2010

Everything pecan discussed at Pecan Harvest Tour in Kansas

Parsons, Kansas — When it comes to pecans, you can’t always judge a nut by its cover. Last week, area nut growers had a chance to learn about all the reasons pecan varieties are not created equal during the Pecan Harvest Tour near Chetopa, Kan.

Although scab is abundant on susceptible cultivars, this year’s crop looks good, according to Kansas State University Research Horticulturist Bill Reid.

The pecan specialist also noted that maturity is running ahead of schedule.

“Shuck split seems to be advanced about 10 days,” he noted. “We had an early and fairly consistent spring so the trees tended to flower together and now they’re maturing together more than usual.”

Five years after an ice storm devastated many area pecan groves, the trees are making a comeback.

“Pawnee probably suffered the worst storm damage but it has returned to production faster than many other cultivars,” Reid noted.

Taking the nut growers through the many varieties being assessed at the K-State Pecan Experiment Field just east of Chetopa, Reid offered cultivar comparisons.

“Pawnee produces a large, good quality nut that buyers like,” he noted, “but it is not scab resistant and Lakota is a good replacement for it. Lakota is a little later ripening but it produces about the same size nut as Pawnee and it has scab resistance.”

Lakota and Kanza, in fact, are two of Reid’s current favorites for grafting. A 15-year old stand of Kanza trees produced a ton of nuts per acre, he pointed out, and both Lakota and Kanza score above 50 in kernel percentage.

Reid shared evaluations on 34 of the varieties growing at the Chetopa field. Ratings are made on nut weight, kernel percentage, nut shape, maturity, flowering type, cold hardiness, disease and pest resistance, limb breakage and other factors.

Reid’s comments on some of the other varieties being tested at Chetopa include:

•Giles— Once one of the most popular varieties in this area, it has a problem with scab. Very productive, Giles, which originated from a tree near the experiment field, has a tendency to over-bear and often needs to be shaken pre-harvest for better nut fill.

•Stuart— An older variety from Mississippi, it’s supposed to be a paper shell but hasn’t turned out that way at Chetopa. A late ripener, Stuart has a lot of packing material inside the shell and has trouble achieving 50 percent kernel.

•Jayhawk— A newer variety selected as a seedling from Giles. Has good scab resistance and good taste but kernel quality is not as good as some other varieties.

•Colby— Northern cultivar from Illinois. Big shell but small nut meat with only about 43 percent kernel.

•Peruque— Early ripening. Small nut but can get up to 60 percent kernel. Fairly productive but, because of its nut size it can be subject to bird predation.

•Faith— Mohawk seedling very similar to Pawnee. Nice, well-filled kernel but susceptible to scab.

•Major— Source of Lakota and Kanza scab resistance. Slow to start bearing but very reliable with excellent flavor.

•Meramec and Mohawk— Both once excellent varieties that are now very susceptible to scab. Big nut, tends to be drier tasting but sells well because of size.

•Osage— Old USDA variety. Severe alternate year bearer with poor tree structure. Limbs break easily. Not recommended to graft in this area.

•Canton— One of the earlier ripening native types with large nut but fairly thick shell.

One experiment variety pointed out on the tour was KSU OF1 which, Reid said, will probably be named next year. Very productive, the experimental is a Green River seedling with a different source of scab resistance than several popular cultivars. It also boasts excellent flavor and good nut size.

Reid noted that native pecans normally have a kernel percentage of about 46 percent while several improved cultivars beat that easily. Peruque, for instance had a 59.28 percent rating while Lakota had 56.85 percent and several others ranked about 50 percent.

Reid also discussed the fertilization program at the Pecan Experiment Field. A fall application of 46 pounds of actual nitrogen is made in the fall with 60 pounds of nitrogen and 60 pounds of potassium going on in the spring.

The researcher made it clear that pecans are a crop that need good management to reach full potential. He joked, however, that there is a very real advantage over other crops:

 “There’s at least one good thing about being a pecan guy,” Reid said. “You get to work in the shade.”

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