Do pecan trees get better?

Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)August 30, 2013

This excessively wet summer has caused (?) a giant old (takes 2 people to reach around) pecan tree in the yard to defoliate quite a bit, though it still looks normal without close inspection. Tiny unformed nuts are falling already. (Picked up more than we could eat 2 years ago, paid for the holidays with the rest.) Apparently there are an amazing number of fungi that can cause this, and all sound/look too similar to me to decide what it is. A microscope is probably needed.

This is a residential yard, so no concern for an orchard. But the treatment all of these orchard/forest sites recommend includes cleanup of the infected debris. This tree is surrounded by mowed grass, with a small bed area at the edge of its' drip line to one side. The lowest foliage/branches are at least 8 feet up in the air. We usually rake the leaves toward that bed, and raking is never thorough anyway, and some leaves will be minced and deposited throughout the root system area when mowing. There are a ton of nearly identical trees, not all in this yard. Kind of a grove in the neighborhood, older than most of the houses, which are all in the 70-100 years old range. I'd be surprised to hear of any of these trees being treated chemically. In light of all of that, would an effort to do things differently around this one tree (use bag on mower, rake leaves to elsewhere) make a difference this one year because of this? If so, how far away should the leaves go?

Is this generally something old yard pecan trees go through periodically, or the sign that the end is likely near? Is it even possible to generalize or is it just completely unknown how much of a problem this could be if I don't know what kind of tree or fungus it is?

I'm not getting chemicals for it, so although I would appreciate the suggestion, it's not an option we would consider. (If it's dying at this old age, so be it. We would just like to recognize that fact ASAP.)

Thanks for your thoughts. Maybe I should just take a poll. Smiles!

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Purple, I am not by far an expert, but I do have 2 trees. Mine are the northern variety, so small nuts are normal. If the nuts are falling early and are not filled, this could also be a pollination problem. Was it raining the whole time they bloomed? Rain like that can prevent proper fertilization.

So far as if the tree is approaching firewood status, look for other clues too. Loss of major limbs? Not a good sign. Early leaf fall? Definitely not good. Any cavities? They also shorten the life. Good luck. I have seen many exuberant pecan trees in the South, and was always amazed and thankful for the free nuts.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 9:59AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

One of the limbs has a hole in it, about the size of a softball. This tree is so big, it's hard to see much but the base of the trunk. Like all giant pecan trees, it throws branches down occasionally, but nothing unusual from what very little I know about such things.

I know it's impossible to say over the internet "yes, your tree is dying," or, "no, it's fine and will live another 50 years for sure." Just wondering if trees that DO live another 50 years go through times when they look like this one.

And yes, I'm sure it was raining the whole time they were supposed to be pollinated. It rained from mid-june to mid-Aug., hardly missing a day, sometimes several times a day.

Thanks for your input!

As I was clicking submit, I remembered, saw my Mom's tree is FULL of nuts the other day... a few miles away, so same weather!

This post was edited by purpleinopp on Mon, Sep 2, 13 at 10:19

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 10:18AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

This is what the ground looks like under the pecan tree today...

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 4:11PM
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With the wet weather in your part of the country this summer, most trees not treated with fungicide will lose the entire crop to pecan scab unless the specific tree is very resistant to the disease (a few like Elliot are common in the SE and are resistant, but most older common ones are not). At my place about half my native trees would defoliate to some extent around now if we had similar weather to you. Not to fear, the tree will likely be back to normal next year except less likely to produce a crop than if they had not defoliated early.

There is really nothing you can do to prevent the crop loss except apply fungicide multiple times, but on the bright side there is little or no long-term damage caused by the scab.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 11:07PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Thanks! I appreciate that info. Some other giant old trees in the neighborhood look similar. There's a much smaller one out front that looks fine. I know it's folly to expect nuts from a pecan tree every year, but we're pretty darn attached to its' shade. As long as it's alive, that's fine with me, if it never makes another nut. Just frustrating dealing with so many falling leaves covering everything so early.

I don't know what kind this one is, just that it makes huge nuts (when it does make some.) When we have more than we want for ourselves, we take them to the nut company and they say that kind pays the highest rate.

FWIW, here's the trunk, it's a big boy!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 9:01AM
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I'm guessing your tree is the "Desirable" cultivar, which is common but very susceptible to pecan scab during average to wet years. The last couple of summers were dry for you guys I think so it likely did well. This year different story. Desirable is the highest $$$ pecan in your part of the country when the quality is good. Stuart, Elliot, and Money Maker are also common.

Hope it rebounds next year!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 10:29PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

(from under a pile of leaves...) TYVM! Me 2!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 7:29AM
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