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Grafting Pecan Trees in South Central PA, Part 1 of 3

Posted: January 9, 2012

As the title implies, this is the first of a 3 part series. Part 2 will cover the 3 flap graft with photos; part III will cover variety selection. Many readers of the Master Gardeners’ columns may remember that I have written several articles on stratifying nuts and growing Pecan trees in South Central Pennsylvania. Many of these seedlings have now grown to a size suitable for grafting.

There is an outstanding article on the subject by William Reid, Ph.D., Research and Extension Horticulturalist, Kansas State University, titled “Propagating Pecan and Black Walnut in Missouri”.

Also, Dr. Reid maintains a blog with frequent updates on his experiences at the Pecan Experiment Field.

When I asked Dr. Reid if I could extract items from his article, he asked why I didn’t print the whole article. I replied we were limited to 500 – 700 words so I couldn’t, but I would extract pertinent items, shown in italics. So for the sake of brevity, I will pose this article as a news article: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

Who

Anyone who obtained seedlings from me in the past few years, and whose seedlings are one half inch thick or more.

What

“Grafting is an age-old horticultural technique that can be defined as attaching a twig from one tree to the stem of another in such a way that the twig continues to grow and become a permanent part of the tree.”

When

Six weeks in late spring, when the bark slips from the rising sap is the time to graft. I actually redid a wind damaged graft on June 30 that thrived. Scion wood collection is done when the donor tree is in total dormancy, February for example.

Where

In South Central Pennsylvania and Maryland. As we are pushing the northern boundary of where pecans will mature and produce, lower elevations in sedimentary soils are best. If you have a creek or river that overflows, making conventional agriculture difficult, that site is ideal. Pecans can and do take flooding and thrive. Kansas State University’s Pecan Experiment Field outside Chetopa, Kansas in the Neosho River watershed has had 1 foot to 4 feet of water numerous times in the last few decades. It thrives for having flooded, as nutrient rich sediment is deposited each time.

Why

“Grafting is an age-old horticultural technique that can be defined as attaching a twig from one tree to the stem of another in such a way that the twig continues to grow and become a permanent part of the tree. All of the branches that grow from that twig will have the identical characteristics of the tree from which the twig was taken. Grafting a twig (the scionwood) from a tree that produces high-quality nuts onto a seedling tree (the stock) is the only way to ensure that your tree will produce desirable nuts.”

I often hear readers say their neighbor has a pecan tree but it doesn’t have pecans on it. If there is not a pollinator (not just another pecan) nearby, it probably won’t. More on that in a near future article on pecan pollinators in variety selection, Part III. Also in future articles, I will describe the scion wood varieties that are recommended by me for grafting in Pennsylvania.

How

By contacting me at Devlinw1@aol.com. I will have obtained a supply of scion woods suitable for cross-pollination. In May 2012 I will schedule an early morning trip and we can do the grafting together. I worked with a 12 year old youngster and his mother in Kansas in April and he got 100% results on four 3 flap grafts so I feel confident of at least some success. If we fail, there’s always next year.

Bill Devlin is a Penn State Extension Master Gardener from Adams County. Penn State Cooperative Extension of Adams County is located at 670 Old Harrisburg Road, Suite 204, Gettysburg. Call 334-6271.