Pecan grower Danny Tingle, manager of Sunland Farms, Cochise, Ariz., was encouraged by the appearance of his 210 acres Western Schley at mid-August.
“They look good — really good,” he says. ‘They’ve exceeded the expectations I had going into this season. They’re about a week late because of the cool spring weather, but the trees are developing a pretty decent-size crop”
Due to a severe freeze several years ago, which all but eliminated production that year from half of his trees, his blocks represent about a 50-50 mix of on- and off-year production cycles.
“The trees that were in an on-year in 2010 and produced good yields have come back with an excellent crop again this season,” he says.
Much of that is by design. Six years ago, Tingle began a program to reduce the year-to-year variation in production of the alternate-bearing pecan trees by pruning them heavily and giving them more nutrients and water during the on-year. The idea is to reduce stress on the trees going into the next year and promote higher off-year nut production.
Another reason for the promising production prospects this year are the trees he planted in 2005. Now in their seventh leaf, this will be their first large crop.
Success in controlling black-margined aphids that came on unusually strong in early June has also helped the crop this year. The easier-to-control black aphids typically arrive in late August.
Continuing monsoon rains, which began July 5, have helped keep aphids washed off tree leaves. Also, Tingle has achieved better results this year using soaps and surfactants to control the pest instead of the early-season chemical treatment used in 2010. Last year, he experimented with the non-conventional materials for the first time. Results were disappointing. This year, he switched to different soap and surfactant products and reduced the ground speed of his spray rig,
“I’m hoping to minimize the use of conventional pesticides early in the season,” he explains. “The goal is to slow down the time it takes for the aphids to become resistant to pesticides. Basically, I’m adding one more tool to the toolbox.
“We’re applying the soaps and surfactants at the same rate per acre, but we’re getting better coverage of the trees by slowing down. We mix the surfactants with our regular foliar zinc sprays to save extra trips through the orchards.”
The surfactants aren’t providing 100 percent control, he says, but they’re keeping aphid numbers at acceptable levels. He uses the surfactants early in the season, and if aphid numbers flare late in the seasonafter monsoons stop and warmer temperatures return, he’ll spray with a pesticide.
“Aphid pressure is variable from year to year, and this is only the second year I’ve tried this,” Tingle says. “So, the results are not definitive.”
He irrigates pecans with sprinklers, drawing from a stable groundwater supply. Rains this year have aided his irrigation program, as has replacing a fourth of his corn and cotton acres with less water-demanding pinto beans. This is his second year growing pinto beans.
“August is our peak water usage month for pecans,” Tingle says. “Irrigating now is the key to quality of the nuts. We’ve been able to use water we save with our pinto beans for our pecan trees without losing any pinto bean yields.”