Root System Development Should Be Key Focus of Pecan Tree’s Early Years

Jim Rogers Georgia, Pecan

By Clint Thompson

Georgia pecan producers need to avoid “pushing their trees so hard” during the early years. The tops are too large to be supported by their root systems, said Lenny Wells, University of Georgia Extension pecan specialist.

Hurricane Idalia
Photo courtesy of UGA Extension.

Wells wrote in his UGA Pecan Extension Blog after assessing the damage from Hurricane Idalia last week. The storm led to thousands of trees toppling over when it moved through Southeast Georgia. Vulnerable trees had almost no chance to withstand the impact of high winds associated with Idalia.

“Especially in these more southerly counties that are so prone to storm damage, we probably need to cut back on the water and fertilizer we apply,” Wells wrote.

“Because it takes a tree so long to get into production, there is a lot of pressure to grow them fast and get them into production quickly. But pecans are a non-precocious, long-lived perennial crop, and in the long run, I think we’ll be better off if we stop trying to work against the natural tendency of these trees and focus more on root system development than canopy development in the first few years. If trees are pushed, they need to be pruned hard and hedged early to bring the canopy down to what the root system can support.”

Wells also noted that thousands of trees from the state line up to Berrien and Cook counties were lost because of the storm. In the worst impacted areas, 30% to 80% trees were reportedly down. Most were 20 years old and younger and either blew down or leaned over.

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