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Wider pecan tree spacing proves a good choice

When Robert Silveira started his Orland, Calif., pecan orchard 14 years ago, he planned for a 40 x 40-foot offset spacing for mature trees. He’s still satisfied with that decision.

Pecans were relatively new to California in the mid-1990s and, growers were trying to figure out the best spacing. Many chose more narrow spacings, such as 30 x 30 or even 30 x 20.

“The narrow spacing seems to be better for lower quality soils,” says the Glenn County grower. “As the trees mature, mechanical hedging minimizes shading and the trees generally produce quite well. With higher quality soils, pecan trees grow a lot bigger, so they need wider spacing.”

Silveira planted two varieties — Pawnee for the primary crop and Shoshone for the pollinator. Originally, he double-planted them on 40 x 20 spacing to boost total production from the young orchard. To minimize crowding as the orchard matured, in 2006 he removed every other row of Pawnee.

“I probably should have done this a year or two earlier,” he says. “Shading had increased enough by 2006 that we had some dieback and production suffered that year. But, yields have since recovered.”

Silveira, who also grows alfalfa, winter wheat, oats and olives, and does custom hay baling, began growing pecans to make use of a small parcel of land.

“Pecans looked like a good niche market for me at the time and they’ve been reasonably profitable,” he says. “Because the crop blooms later, frost usually isn’t the concern it is with almonds and walnuts.

“Diseases aren’t a problem, either. Although we control for black and yellow aphids, currently we don’t have the pecan weevil that is prevalent in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Also, many of our buyers are overseas and they get pretty excited about the high quality of California pecans.”

TAGS: Tree Nuts
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