Pecan is an attractive tree both in the orchard and in the home landscape.
Growing Pecans in Missouri
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Center for Agroforestry
Pecan is a large, beautiful tree that produces bountiful crops of delicious nuts. The largest member of the hickory family, pecan trees often grow to a height of over 70 feet with a spread of greater than 80 feet. Pecans have large, pinnately compound leaves with each leaf bearing 7 to 13 leaflets. Nuts are borne on branch terminals in clusters of two to five. A fleshy green husk surrounds the nut during the growing season but splits open in October to reveal a light brown nut that is streaked with black mottles. As husks dry and wither, nuts fall freely from the tree. Pecan nuts vary widely in size, shape, and shell thickness. Seedling pecan trees often produce small, thick-shelled nuts while trees grafted to improved cultivars produce large, thin-shelled nuts.
Pecans are truly multipurpose trees. In the home landscape, these long-lived and sturdy trees provide ample shade and bright yellow fall color. Wildlife conservationists appreciate the food and cover pecan trees produce for squirrels, turkeys, and deer. In many areas of Missouri, wild pecan trees have been brought under cultivation to provide farmers with an additional source of income. And finally, pecans are a low-input orchard tree.
A successful pecan planting requires:
- Good soils
- Adequate water
- Prudent cultivar selection
Failure to provide all the proper conditions for pecan tree growth often leads to poor tree growth and sparse nut production.
Methods for establishing pecan trees
Pecans should be given plenty of room to grow. Plant trees 30 to 35 feet apart. Pecans can be established by planting grafted trees, by planting seedling trees then grafting 2 to 3 years later, or by planting nuts then grafting 3 to 4 years later. Each of these methods offers advantages and disadvantages. Prospective pecan growers should choose the method suited to their skills and economic situation.
Transplanting grafted trees of desired cultivars is the simplest way to establish a pecan orchard. Trees should start to bear nuts within 5 to 7 years after transplanting. Unfortunately, many of the cultivars recommended for Missouri are not widely available from commercial nurseries making it difficult to obtain grafted trees.
Seedling pecan trees are widely available and can be purchased from seedling nurseries or from the Missouri Department of Conservation. Desired cultivars should be grafted to seedling trees 2 to 3 years after establishment. Nut production should begin 4 to 6 years after grafting. Starting a pecan planting with seedlings offers the advantages of low initial costs and the opportunity to establish cultivars not available from commercial nurseries. Disadvantages include a delay in the onset of nut production and the expense of grafting your trees.
AF1002, new January 2000