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By Andy Sherrod, Orchard Manager

Talking Trees?

Judging from the title of this month’s blog you may not read any further than the first sentence, so let me assure you that it’s not what you think. Talking trees, indeed. But trees do communicate. You just need to know how to “listen.”

Every year as fall changes into winter, I’m watching the trees for evidence of their health. That’s right. Pecan trees offer hints about what I can expect from them next season. You see, if they go to sleep feeling weak, the buds at the terminal end of the twigs will develop into vegetative or leaf-producing shoots next spring. But if the trees go to sleep feeling strong and healthy, then the buds will develop into reproductive or nut-producing shoots. Here’s how to read the signs.

If leaf retention lingers deep into the fall, right up to the first freeze, that indicates the trees are feeling good. Each green leaf is producing food through the process of photosynthesis until it falls off the tree. All that food is stored in the roots to be used next spring. If leaf-drop begins before the first freeze then the trees are not feeling well. They are stressed.

The picture you see here was taken on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Note that the Wichita trees in the foreground are loaded with green leaves. They are feeling strong and will most likely produce a boomer of a crop next year. The trees in the background are already completely defoliated. They are most certainly stressed and will not produce a very good crop next year.

The trees in the background are in a low area which held water last winter and all during the spring. For six months those trees stood in water with no opportunity for air to enter the microscopic pore space in the soil to nourish the tender feeder roots, so they died. Consequently, they became stressed and dropped their leaves early.

But the trees in the foreground are feeling great. Even in late November they are still almost in full leaf and still photosynthesizing food for the trees, which will be stored in the roots for next year. That’s a really good thing.

So you see trees do talk. And what the trees in our orchard are telling us in early December is, “Get ready for next year, because we are going to take you for a ride!” … or something to that effect.

Merry Christmas to all of you and many blessing for the coming year!