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In the Pecan Orchard: May 2015

By Andy Sherrod, Orchard Manager


Caring For Pecan Trees In May

During the month of May, you could lose half your pecan crop and not even know it!

Now that pollination is over, there is nothing we can do to produce a larger crop in 2015 than the one which is already set. Our job now is to keep what we have. But soon a tiny little worm, no bigger around than the lead in your mechanical pencil, may hatch and destroy half your crop or more if left unchecked. It’s called the Pecan Nut Casebearer.

That’s a mighty long name for a tiny little insect, but don’t underestimate it. It has a voracious appetite. It’s pretty easy to control but timing is critical. In this month’s post, I’ll share what we at Royalty Pecan Farms do to protect our crop from this pest.

In the middle of April (usually on April 15) we hang pheromone traps in the orchard to monitor the beginning of the Casebearer’s life cycle. The traps have a sticky cardboard floor and a synthetic attractant that draws the males. It may take several days, but eventually we’ll catch something. When we catch our first moths, we know fertilization is taking place out in the orchard. Seven days later, we expect to find eggs layed on the terminal end of the nutlets.

Once we start finding eggs (a magnifying glass is required to find them) we monitor their development. When first layed they are creamy white. In a few days they develop red speckles. Then they turn rusty red right before they hatch. This process takes anywhere from seven to ten days, depending on the daily temperatures. It’s during this week-long window that we apply a unique pesticide.

Pesticide Isn’t Always A Bad Word

Our pest control methods are carefully executed so that we keep the land healthy for future farming and we don’t harm beneficial insects or benign wildlife.

The pesticide we use is only damaging to larvae of the insect family Lepidoptera, which includes moths and butterflies. The larvae hatch and ingest the insecticide. The insecticide degrades in three weeks and disappears from the environment. All the beneficial insects, ladybugs, lacewings, spiders, and others, never even know the orchard has been sprayed. They continue to thrive and feed on the yellow pecan aphids, like the ladybug pictured below.

By controlling Pecan Nut Casebearer in this fashion, we don’t have to spend time controlling aphids in the orchard, because we have fostered a biological system that does it for us.

The month of May is Casebearer month. These little guys are so small and their damage is so subtle that less observant growers may not know they have a problem until they see the tiny nutlets littering the ground.

Right now it’s too late to put out the pheromone traps, but you can track the catches of other growers in your area and thereby time your spray application accurately. Click here to see more at Pecan ipmPIPE. Forecast dates for spraying can be found under the “maps” tab.

At this point in the Growing Season, we can’t add any more pecans to the trees, but we can try to stop the many things that might take them away. Beware the Pecan Nut Casebearer!

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