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Consistent producer proves its value as pecan pollinator

New Mexico pecan grower Marshall Clayshulte likes Bradley — a variety that represents about 15 percent of the 650 acres of pecans in the Mesilla Valley that he manages for Clayshulte Bros., LLC, based in Mesilla.

“I wish we had more,” he says. Western Schley is his primary variety, as it is for most valley growers, representing about 80 percent of his trees. Bradley and Wichita (5 percent) are the pollinators.

“Deane Stahman, who founded the pecan industry in the valley, once said if Western Schley is the king of pecans, then Bradley is the queen,” Clayshulte says.

Bradleys have been part of the family business since his father first planted them more than 50 years ago. The number of trees got a big boost in the early 1990s when Clayshulte provided a home for Bradleys being thinned from a neighboring farm. At the time, he notes, he didn’t fully appreciate their qualities. That’s since changed. (Pecan growers often plant new trees in very close spacings and when they reach maturity, transplant them into new orchards.)

“Bradleys had been overlooked by many growers who were going for Western Schley and Wichita,” Clayshulte says. “But, within the past 10 years, Bradleys have been gaining popularity as growers have started to realize their benefits. I’m really happy with them.”

Here’s why:

• Ability to reduce freeze-related risks.

Typically, bud break on Bradleys starts in late April, about about 2½ weeks after Western Schleys. “Every 15 to 20 years, we seem to get a killing frost when the Western Schleys are pollinating, but the buds on the Bradleys are still pretty tight,” he says. “Western Schleys won’t produce very many secondary catkins, but they will produce a second bloom, which the undamaged Bradleys can pollinate.”

• Consistent, high quality yields

“Because Bradley doesn’t alternate bear, you don’t have the highs and or the lows in production,” he says. “Over a 10-year period, average production is right in there with the other varieties.”

A high meat yield, at least 60 percent, is another Bradley advantage, Clayshulte notes. “It’s very unusual to get under that level, while our Western Schleys average about 56 percent,” he says. “In some years, that can be a significant difference.”

• Adaptability to various soil types

He’s also been impressed by Bradley’s ability to adapt to a wide range of soils. In this alluvial valley, soils within the same field can vary from light to very heavy.

“Wichita doesn’t do well in the heavy soils and is susceptible to salt damage,” Clayshulte says. “But, we’ve learned over the years that no matter where you put Bradley, it will do well across the spectrum of soils.”

Meanwhile, he’s optimistic about the prospects for all his varieties this season. “Based on our cluster counts, it looks like a good crop for an on-year,” Clayshulte says. “We’re pleased with it.”

TAGS: Tree Nuts
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