Concerning plants, can you name the Big Three? I’m talking about the three inputs every plant must have to survive. If any one of these inputs is missing, plants will die. By the same token, if any one of these inputs is lacking, plants will stress.
If you said food, water, and sunlight you would, like me one year ago, be 33.33% wrong. You see, a group of College Station middle-schoolers corrected me. “Plants make their own food,” they told me while touring the orchard. Well, kudos to those teachers! Plants DO make their own food through photosynthesis. Plants synthesize water and NUTRIENTS to make food through a process driven by sunlight.
So, I’ve amended my answer to the question of the Big Three to be nutrients, water and sunlight.
In a nutshell (…ahem), that describes the essence of our management program. Provide sufficient nutrients, water, and sunlight to keep the trees from going into stress.
We manage the nutrient component through supplemental fertilizer such as foliar applications of zinc and other micronutrients every two weeks from April through mid-July.
We manage the water component through supplemental irrigation from mid-summer to October using drip irrigation.
AND we manage the sunlight component. How? Well, let me show you.
These trees compete with each other for the available sunlight. See the limbs growing together? Without ample sunlight it doesn’t matter how much water and nutrients they have. No sunlight, no photosynthesis, no food and the quality of the edible kernels is compromised.
After opening up the middles these trees now have ample sunlight which means they will have adequate food to produce those big fat kernels you’ve come to expect from Royalty Pecan Farm.
Every winter after we finish harvesting the crop, we prune the trees with this custom-made pecan tree hedger. Its only job is to manage the sunlight.
Here at Royalty Pecan Farm we don’t hedge every tree every year but rather we manage the size of the canopy as-needed keeping the trees small enough to receive adequate sunlight all the way around. The practice forces the trees to become incredibly vigorous.
You can liken our management practices to a coach training an athlete for the Olympics. Anyone can run a race but only a few achieve elite status. By the same token, any pecan tree can produce pecans but only a few consistently perform at an elite level.
Producing high quality pecans is a year-around job. What I’ve described here is only a cursory explanation of our “training program”.
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Article written by our Orchard Manager, Andy Sherrod. Andy received his Undergraduate degree in Horticulture and then a Master's degree in Agriculture from Texas A&M. He has been the Orchard Manager of Royalty Pecan Farms since 1986! Andy is instrumental in educating students from the university still, as well as many local schools. He hosts a monthly tour of the farm every second Saturday. Purchase your ticket here.