Pruning Mature Storm-Damaged Pecan Orchards

Charles Graham  |  4/11/2006 6:54:38 PM

Hurricanes and severe thunderstorms damage pecan orchards in a variety of ways, including uprooting trees, structural limb breakage, defoliation and loss of fruit. Aside from the obvious loss of production in the year in which the storm occurs, the grower must almost cope with future decreases in production and an increase in the magnitude of alternate bearing.

Objectives of pruning damaged trees:

  1. Remove dead, weakened or damaged branches.
  2. Improve branch spacing and remove weak crotches.
  3. Improve tree stability by reducing wind resistance.
  4. Increase sunlight to interior portion of the canopy.

Dehorning or Pollarding: The most severe type of heading cut where large limbs are cut back leaving several stubs. This generally results in the tree being vegetative for several years before production returns on the new growth. It can be used to reduce the leverage on long limbs and stimulate lateral fruiting branches on long barren limbs.

Heading cut: Removes a branch of 2 to 3 inches in diameter to a stub and generally stimulates vigorous, upright, poorly spaced and weakly attached shoots just below the pruning cut. Generally results in improved nut quality but reduces yield.

Thinning cut: Removes a branch at its attachment point to another branch or to the trunk without leaving a stub. Thinning cuts are made to improve structure, reduce height, spread, branch weight and wind resistance. This is partially accomplished by redistributed energy which would have gone into vegetative growth of headed limbs to the remaining surrounding branches.

Wisping or Progressive Displacement: Technique used to reduce the size of temporary trees by gradually removing selected limbs as they compete with limbs of surrounding permanent trees. Ultimately, the trees will be removed completely.

Hedging: Mechanical form of heading where all limbs of 0.5 to 1.5 inch diameter are removed on a designated plane of the tree.

Tip pruning: System of light annual pruning used to force buds equally along the length of the limb, dividing the vigor among many shoots.

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