Pecan conundrum


#1

In 2013 (4.5 years ago), I planted two pecan varieties about 30 feet apart in full sunlight, here in zone 5b. One was a Starking Hardy Giant (Type I), and the other was their recommended pollinator, a Stark Surecrop (Type II). Both struggled a little out of the gate, probably due to those back-to-back crazy cold winters we had in 2014 and 2015.

The Surecrop gave up the ghost in 2016, so I planted a Colby Pecan (Type II) in a different but similar spot. By this past summer, it was dead too, even as the Hardy Giant finally took off. In a plot twist, I had neglected the spot where the original Surecrop was planted, and the rootstock began to take off where the Surecrop had failed.

Here’s a picture of the Surecrop rootstock as of this summer:
IMG_1532

While I didn’t get a picture of the original Hardy Giant, by next spring, it will be roughly this size (this is a plum, and not my pic):

Now, I know the Hardy Giant is basically self-pollinating, but I know it will do better with another Type II (protogynous) tree around. Having looked at @Fusion_power’s pollination chart, along with cultivars that’ll work up here in NY state, the Western Schley Pecan seems like a good candidate. So I have a list of options:

1. Forget about it, and just let the Hardy Giant do its thing.
pros: everything else keeps dying anyway, so it’ll save the effort
cons: have to wait another decade for nuts, won’t set as many fruit, and I like planting trees

2. Get the Western Schley, and plant it somewhere else nearby.
pros: easy
cons: may expire the same way the others did

3. Get the Western Schley and graft it onto the existing rootstock that seems to be doing okay.
pros: making lemons out of lemonade, perhaps the existing rootstock will allow it to survive long enough to get going
cons: never grafted like that before, not sure if I can graft the bare-root I’ll order in the spring, lots of questions

4. Get the Western Schley and graft it onto the Hardy Giant.
pros: pretty cool if it takes, and two varieties growing on the same tree solves all the problems
cons: don’t know if it’s been done, or how successful a lower “branch replacement” would be

Anyway, if any of you have thoughts, or if there’s an idea I haven’t thought of, I’m all ears!


#2

Western is a southern variety not adapted to your zone. It is best to get varieties that can thrive under your conditions.

Starking Hardy Giant overlaps itself nearly 100% but it is always best to have good pollination from another source. No single variety overlaps well with it. The best recommendation is to plant (or graft) two other pecans with a type I and type II that are adapted to your climate.

For your area, Hark, Major and Kanza are a good fit for pollination. Your climate is zone 5b so they may not do so well. I will defer to Dax on this question since his climate is far closer to yours.

I don’t have pollination information on most of the far northern varieties but I do have dichogamy type 1 or type 2 for several of them. It looks like Dumbell Lake (I), Shepherd (I), and Lucas (II) would be possibilities.


#3

When that seedling-rootstock gets to 1.5-2" diameter do a bark graft. Stick two scions on it above deer browse height. Bark grafts are so easy and take for me like 95%.

Dax


#4

Interesting… if there’s no other single variety that overlaps pollination-wise, it seems I should just let the whole thing be, yes? If I were to follow @Barkslip’s advice (which would be a fun experiment), neither of the two scions would help out the Hardy Giant, I assume?


#5

Hi @Fusion_power & (@ianrwilliams)

What I am saying is to graft another variety of the same cultivar to the seedling. There’s no reason Ian to have seedling pecans which will be crap.

I just took a quick look at Wes Rice’s book and he lists Starking Hardy Giant as pollen shed 1. And by the way Ian it’s an excellent pecan! It’s also super early so you made a great choice in selecting that. To pair with it for your area you want ‘Mullahy’. I don’t believe you have the heat that we do here but I will have defer to you to tell to me how many cooling degree days that you have. ‘Hark’ here is a go but it won’t be a go for example for my friend Bob in Connecticut zone 6b simply because he doesn’t have enough summer heat. He however can grow Mullahy and Campbell’s NC-4 aka NC-4.

So Mullahy I’m going to say is possible for you. But you’ll need on the East Coast a minimum of 700 cooling degree days to mature Mullahy and Starking Hardy Giant. Any pecan you grow must mature in under 160 days. Better yet, 150-155 days for you.

The reason I came up with 600-700 cooling degree days is because my friend Bob in Connecticut gets 500 cooling degree days but his zone is a full zone past yours. It’s an estimate. You’ll need a ‘bit more heat’ than him to mature Mullahy where you are. So go to this link, post 92 and let me know the data you get. Then I won’t be guessing so much.

And do feel free to graft on your seedling-rootstock before it gets 1.5-2" diameter. It would be just as good for you to do a 3-flap graft on that seedling this coming spring anywhere 10" and above from ground level.

Just keep it caged.

Dax


#6

Yikes, well, with 65º as a balance point, our degree cooling days hovers just under 400… with 500 every 4 years or so, and around 200 for those awful 2014 and 2015 winters. With a balance point of 60º, we’re well over 1000 cd, but I imagine you have a very good reason for choosing 65º for pecans.

On the AgACIS chart, we tend to have an average of just over a 200-day growing season. But it seems I’m still out of range for Mullahy. The Stark Bros website says Missouri Hardy pecan pollinates the Hardy Giant and can be planted in zone 5, but I haven’t seen anyone mention it on here, so it would be another flyer, I suppose.


#7

That’s not good, Ian. I have 200 frost free days too. I’ve had as low as 180 in 2009 and as many as 231 in 2012. Most years are 210.

You can give it a shot. That’s all I can say, however, you would be much smarter to graft your trees over to Warren 346 and Snaps. You’re gaining 10 or more days doing so. Unfortunately in Wes Rice’s book there isn’t pollen shed information for Green Island Beaver or Carlson 3. Maybe Grimo Nursery in Canada can tell you that. But, Snaps and Warren 346 are pollen compatible for sure. Warren 346 is pollen shed 2. Snaps is pollen shed 1. So if Green Island Beaver or Carlson 3 are also pollen shed 1 you would have more choices to pair with Warren 346.

I’d also ask Grimo what he has to say about your data.

Dax


#8

This is fabulous information… though both Reid and Rock Bridge say Warren 346 is protoandrous (type I):

When you say I should grow two scions on the other rootstock, that’s just for more pecans in general, right? Not for pollinating the Hardy Giant?


#9

Wes Rice watched Warren 346 more closely than others. I posted about it and here is what Wes said:

"Got an interesting email from Wes Rice about Carya illinoinensis ‘Warren 346’

"Warren 346 is one of those cultivars with significant overlap in pollen shed and pistillate receptivity. It has some other unusual properties also besides unusually early nut maturity for a nut of that size–it has late precocity and a “unruly” tree structure. Back in Tommy Thompson’s tenure at the USDA pecan breeding station, he said Warren 346 was Type II, and informed me that the only sure way to tell on any cultivar is when the stigma is receptive to pollen grain adherence (pollen sticks to the receptive stigma). It’s pretty easy to tell when pollen dehiscence occurs from the anthers on the catkin. If you “flick” the catkin and pollen comes out, this establishes when pollen shed occurs. Some times in rainy or extreme humidity, pollen shed will be retarded-- reducing the period of pollen shed or delaying the start- or terminating the shed early. Using this criteria, Warren 346 is Type II – at least on my trees. Pistil size and shape are also indicators of dichogamy-- but not foolproof.

Bill Reid, last I heard, is going by the visual appearance of the catkin-- which is not always accurate. At one time, Reid and Ken Hunt(I believe) had it classed as Type II also. I think Dale Warren also called it Type II, but don’t know if it was from his observation, or by someone else.

I’m sure this may be as clear as thick mud!

Wes"

I’m saying you’ll get two chances for a successful graft if you set two. Then you can eliminate the other after a few years. Keep both on for insurance and stake them both until it’s time to remove one. There you have extra scionwood then.

The other thing I thought of immediately is you can certainly keep Starking Hardy Giant around and graft a Mullahy. Grimo Nursery is now ran by Ernie’s daughter. She’ll email you back. I know Grimo is growing ultra-northern pecans in that Ontario area of Canada. He’d be selling Mullahy and Starking Hardy Giant if he could mature them. That I see clearly.

Dax


#10

Dax, your info has been invaluable. Thank you!


#11

My pleasure, Ian.

Dax


#12

Ian,

I have more information for you to mull through. I emailed my friend Bob in Connecticut and his information is extremely helpful, actually. Bob writes:

"Dax, that is a hard one. My Mullahy, and my NC-4 have bore nuts during a 560 CDD, year.

Have not had anything lower, that I know of.

My information says that Green Island Beaver is Protogynous.

Your friend’s heat units are low. But, maybe the fact that he has 200 growing days, might make up for the lack of heat.

This far north, we are all guessing, as to what will work. The only way to know is to plant them and see.

Warren 346 II, Green island Beaver II, Iowa ?, Cornfield, and Snaps l, might do the job. Those four are suppose to shuck split in around 140 days. That would give them an extra 2 months to finish shuck split.

Hope that helps.

Bob Harper

So let me break this down, Ian.

Warren 346 is type 2 what is called protogynous

Green Island Beaver is type 2

Iowa which is a grafted tree near me is type 1 which is what is called protandrous flowering. The problem with Iowa is it isn’t a good cracking pecan. It is the earliest maturing pecan we know of though. Probably a few days only to Warren 346 but earlier.

Cornfield Bob is saying is type 1.

Snaps he is saying is type 1.

Bob and I both agree without the need for words that you are certainly going to be able to grow ultra-northern varieties. Starking Hardy Giant is not going to mature for you.

As far as having all that great growth and what your Starking Hardy Giant will look like next year… don’t even blink when I suggest you cut it off leaving several branches beneath the leader to feed the scion(s) which you will bark graft another variety onto. With all that power that’s already there, you’ll literally be blown away when you see what happens after a scion knits and takes off the year after grafting. It’s mind boggling. 5-6 feet of growth the second year when grafted to a tree the size of your Starking Hardy Giant.

Here’s a video of exactly what you need to learn about bark grafting on a tree of identical everything to what you have to do. This is my best friend demonstrating.

Now since we did this video, he’s come to my side of the debate regarding foil and bags. What we both do now is either parafilm or wax the scions in advance of setting them. The scions are secured with electricians tape and the top of the seedling rootstock is covered with electricians tape so nothing can get in to dry out our grafts and/or moisture/rain cannot get in. So as we wrap the scion in place we go over the top of the cut off tree we’re grafting onto and tape that sealed shut.

If you put an unwaxed scion or a scion that has been cut for insertion on without having parafilmed it prior then you have to wrap the scion after you’ve securely got it in place and it could move. So always do your cuts on the scion, then parafilm it if you don’t use wax while you’re standing right there… & then insert it into the tree. Then tape it, and do the pruning to stimulate callousing and growth, and then and only then you’re finished.

I know this is a lot to take in, but it’s really not all that complicated. Gary there only stuck the one scion in but had we had two scions of that variety he would’ve put a second scion opposite the other. Of course you cut both scions and make your (2) vertical cuts on the seedling and place the scions in place and then with your electricians tape you wrap.

Ian, if you cut too much off the seedling the grafts will skyrocket and they could what’s known as “push away” meaning they might not callous fully but they still grow but ultimately they fail. So it’s better to leave on more branches than to remove too many.

As years progress you ‘slowly’ remove more and more of those branches until you decide the scion is all that should be left. So on that video you might at year two cut off two of the lower branches completely and continue to snip back the top branches so they don’t grow into and interfere with the scion(s).

Year three you might leave only one or two of the lower branches and remove all the top branches. Then year four your remove everything leaving only the scion to become your new tree.

As you see any buds develop along the trunk of the seedling you should always rub them off. They literally show up from under the bark in places anywhere along the trunk where you wouldn’t think they should be.

Soak this all in man. Forget about the aluminum foil and baggies and simply place scions that you’ve made long cuts on that have been parafilmed prior to insertion into the rootstock and tape it all in place going over the top of the flat wound on the rootstock sealing it all in place.

Best of luck, best regards,

Dax


#13

Wow, incredible. And so you both agree Hardy Giant won’t mature for me… way better I know that now than in 5 more years. Supposing I cut the HG down with several branches still under the cut, should I try to graft two different ultra-Northern species onto it, or only stick with one?


#14

One, Ian.

You want trees that don’t fork. And pruning early is a practice that must be done with most everything.

Dax


#15

Dax, I agree with your advice, but have to point out one issue that would affect using electricians tape here in the south. Black tape would overheat in the spring sunshine here. I would use a less absorptive color like gray or possibly green.


#16

I’ll keep that in mind Darrel for others in the south when talking grafting.

Thanks,

Dax


#17

@Barkslip, three more questions:

  1. To be clear, you wax your scions (or wrap parafilm all the way up), leaving enough room for the eventual cuts… is that in place of what you guys did in the video, or in addition to what you did?

  2. I take from context that I should bark graft a scion onto my existing HG because it has a larger caliper trunk, but probably 3 or 4-flap banana graft the other scion to the other rootstock, since it will be about the same size trunk, yes?

  3. Can I order, say, a Warren 346 and a Snaps bare root tree from Grimo, and use them as scions, or do scions have to come from an established, older tree? (I know that last question outs me as a total newbie, but hey, I’m asking questions anyway…)


#18

What you need to do is ask around for scions. Wes Rice may be able to get what you need or could point you in the right direction. I’ll try to help you get them, as well.

Yes, the easiest way is to hold off on wrapping the scions, do your cuts first and then wrap them prior to setting them.

If the trunk on the rootstock that popped up is enough diamter 1"-1.5" then you can certainly do a bark graft on it as well. It’ll depend partially on the caliper of scionwood you receive as to whether you’ll do a bark graft or a 3-flap graft.

Let’s try to get wood for you so there won’t be any need to order two trees. That’s worst case scenario.

Keep in touch. Let me know if you’re having difficulty and I’ll try thru my friends to get those cultivars for you. I would write Wes a letter to begin. Tell him you’ve been talking to me on a forum and now you need his help acquiring Warren 346 and a partner for it.

Dax