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Pecan Orchard Establishment. Making Your Orchard Yield Nuts (and $) as Soon as Possible. Richard Heerema Extension Pecan Specialist New Mexico State University. Goals. Long-term goal—maximize economic returns over the life of the orchard.

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Pecan orchard establishment l.jpg

Pecan Orchard Establishment

Making Your Orchard Yield Nuts (and $) as Soon as Possible

Richard Heerema

Extension Pecan Specialist

New Mexico State University

Goals l.jpg

  • Long-term goal—maximize economic returns over the life of the orchard.

  • Short-term goal—reach economic production in the shortest time possible.

    • The kids gotta eat and bank’s gotta get paid!

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Important things I’m not going to dwell on today

  • Site selection

  • Pre-planting soil modifications

  • Nursery tree size

  • Potted vs. bareroot

  • Pre-plant tree care

  • Irrigation & nutrition

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Genetics: Cultivar Precocity

  • Precocity is the relative amount of time it takes for a tree to come into production.

  • Highly precocious cultivars have a tendency to over-bear once they are mature

    • alternate bearing

    • poor nut quality

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Genetics: Cultivar Precocity


Very Precocious


‘Bradley’ (‘Ideal’)









‘Cape Fear’







  • ‘Apache’

  • ‘Caddo’

  • ‘Choctaw’

  • ‘Desirable’

  • ‘Kanza’

  • ‘Kiowa’

  • ‘Lakota’

  • ‘Mandan’

  • ‘Nacono’

  • ‘Pawnee’

  • ‘Sioux’

  • ‘Success’

  • ‘Waco’

  • ‘Western’

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Genetics: Rootstock Vigor

  • Generally, high vigor and precocity are considered linked in pecan.

  • High vigor:

    • Cross-pollinated nuts

    • Complete dichogamy

    • Southern parentage

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Genetics: Rootstock Vigor

Higher Vigor

Lower Vigor









Moderate Vigor





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Planting Density

  • Initially, yield should be proportional to tree planting density.

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Planting Density

*Hypothetical Example*

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Orchard Floor Management

Foshee et al, 1995

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Orchard Floor Management

Smith et al., 2005

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  • Two truths:

    • Training young pecan trees is essential to growing a tree that is workable through the life of the orchard.

    • Pruning young pecan trees delays cropping.

Prune young pecan trees, but remove as little wood as possible!

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Remove basal primary buds on central leader during dormant pruning.

Photo courtesy of Monte Nesbitt

Year 1

At Planting

Year 2

Use a combination of winter and early-summer pruning to minimize the amount of wood cut.