Fertilize Pecan Trees to Encourage Nut Production!

Brad Haire, University of Georgia, bugwood.org

Millie W. Davenport
Home & Garden Information Center

Improve your chances for a good pecan crop this year by following these steps.

  1. Keep the area under the trees clean by completely removing and destroying any fallen leaves, twigs, pecans and shucks. This type of sanitation performed weekly during the growing season will help to prevent the carry-over of certain diseases and break the life cycle of insects like the hickory shuckworm, twig girdler and pecan weevil.
  2. Properly fertilize pecan trees in mid to late February. Without proper fertilization, pecan trees are more likely to have alternate bearing years as well as an early nut drop. (Early nut drop is also caused by drought conditions.) A soil test will help to determine the soil pH and nutrient levels. Nutrients are most readily available at a soil pH of 6 to 6.5. In the absence of a soil test, broadcast 4 pounds of a complete fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, for each inch of trunk diameter (measured at 4 ½ feet above soil level). Do not place fertilizer in holes, but broadcast fertilizer evenly beneath the canopy of the tree.
  3. Pecan trees also require zinc for proper growth and development as well as good nut production. Zinc deficiency causes a disorder known as rosette. Symptoms of rosette include bronzing and mottling of leaves; early defoliation; dead twigs at the top of the tree; abnormally small nuts; small, yellowish leaves; and short, thin twigs on older branches with rosettes (clusters) of small yellowish-green leaves at the tips. In general, 3 to 5 pounds of zinc sulfate can be applied to large trees each year to maintain proper zinc levels. Alternately, pecan tree fertilizer containing zinc can be applied. Many pecan fertilizers are available as 10-10-10 with 2% zinc. Apply at the same rate mentioned above for 10-10-10.

Following these steps will increase your chances for a good pecan crop; however, some factors are out of our control. For instance, rainy weather or late freezes during the time of bloom can reduce pollination. Early defoliation the previous year due to drought, insect or disease problems can also contribute to a reduction in pecan numbers and size. Drought conditions late in the growing season can cause a problem with the nuts not filling properly.

For more information on growing and caring for pecan trees see HGIC 2211, Pecan Diseases; HGIC 2213, Reasons for Poor Quality Pecans; and HGIC 1356, Pecan Planting and Fertilization. For information on taking a soil sample see HGIC 1652, Soil Testing.

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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.