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Thinning Pecans To Reduce 2020 Crop Load

Pecan growers across the southern US have been assessing nutrient needs, moisture needs, and insect pressure as this year’s pecan crop develops and begins to size up for the final push of the season. 


Pecan growers have been working tirelessly in the orchards over the last few months as pecan scab pressure has been mounting in the southeast. Growers have been working to keep the pecan trees healthy and the crop on the trees. Pecan trees will naturally shed some of the pecans on the tree if the tree is put under stress. Large crop loads coupled with dry hot conditions can cause trees to shed large amounts of pecans in order to save nutrients to keep the tree healthy and alive. 


This year is no different as pecan growers have reported the first “June drop” of the season was not too significant. Many varieties shed pecans to reduce the crop load, however grower assistance is still needed for many of the cultivars. 


For example on our farm we are currently shaking off a large portion of our Shoshoni pecans. Shoshoni pecans are a cultivar that if left alone will tend to alternate bear pecans. This means that on the “on years” such as this year, the trees will put on a very heavy crop load. The problem with this is that the pecans on the tree under these conditions will not fill out and will make very poor quality pecans. Also next year the trees will be in the “off year” and will bear almost no pecans. 


To mitigate this, we shake off a large portion of the crop on the “on years”, this allows the crop left on the trees to fill out and make good quality pecans as well as produce a consistent crop each year. 


The Georgia Pecan Growers Association shared a great video with Pecan Extension Agent Andrew Sawyer giving an in depth explanation of how to tell when to fruit thin your pecan trees based on what stage your pecans are at in the growth cycle. 



One important item to mention when considering fruit thinning in your orchard is “bark slip”. Currently the bark on most varieties of pecan trees is very easy to damage and remove from the tree, especially with a mechanical shaker. If you’re not careful during fruit thinning, it is very easy to “bark” the tree, which if damaged enough, can kill the tree. Make sure to use caution when fruit thinning with a boom shaker so as to not cause damage to your trees, and receive full benefit from good agricultural practices.