Pecan planting season has come and gone for most producers. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension pecan specialist Lenny Wells believes farmers who planted their trees in early February are more likely to succeed compared to producers who planted their trees later, or in mid-March.
Data from 2020 research supports his belief.
“It confirmed what I had been seeing. Those that were planted in February and even early March compared with middle of March, tended to be a little more vigorous and grow better than those planted later,” Wells said.
According to Wells’ research, trees planted in early February yielded leaf area (size of the leaf) about 17mm, and even in mid-February, it was 20mm. But in early March, leaf area dropped to about 12mm and then to about 11mm in mid-March. Much higher leaf area on early planted trees is a sign of vigor in the tree.
Other indicators like the trunk diameter growth, leaf length and average leaf width support the importance of planting early.
“Anytime you pull a tree out of the nursery and plant it into the field, it’s going to undergo some transplant shock. We do recommend pruning the root system now as they plant. Even if they don’t, they’ve lost some of that root system that they had in the nursery in the digging process. When you put that tree planted out into an orchard, it’s got to develop some new roots and get going again before the top of that tree can start growing like it should,” Wells said. “Sometimes, just from the energy that’s stored in the buds and in the trunk of that tree, it’ll start pushing out new growth before it has the root system ready to support that new growth. That’s where you can get in trouble.”
Unfortunately, most producers were unable to get in the orchard to plant trees this winter because of excessive rainfall.
“This year, even if they wanted to plant in February, it was really tough to get those trees planted with all the rain we had during that time. A lot of them were forced this year to plant later. If they take care of them and manage them right and just don’t let those root systems get stressed for any reason, keep good water on them, they should be okay,” Wells said. “But it’s always better to get them in earlier so those roots get established before budbreak begins, which we’re at budbreak now.”
Wells doesn’t recommend producers plant after budbreak which is the stage the trees are in now.