Pecans Falling Way Too Soon – What to Do?

— Written By Diane Lynch

Article written by Jessica Strickland, Horticulture Agent

Q: Why are my pecans dropping early?

A: No matter how you pronounce the word pecan, many of us in Eastern North Carolina enjoy pecans. Some have one or many pecans trees to not only provide shade from the summer heat but for gathering pecans from autumn into winter. It is upsetting to see pecans on your tree, only to see them fall to the ground too early before harvest. As for what causes the nuts to fall prematurely, there are a few possibilities for one to consider. Listed below are those possibilities:

  • Pollination.  Early dropping of pecans can be a sign that during the spring there was a lack of pollination. Pecan trees are pollinated by the wind. If conditions, like excessive rain, were poor during pollination the flowers could miss being pollinated and the unpollinated pecans will fall early. Unfavorable weather conditions can also be the blame of male and female flowers maturing at different times causing poor pollination. Unfortunately, we can’t control the weather and don’t have a way to control pollination to prevent early fall of pecans.
  • Pecan weevil.  Now you may have another reason to dislike the pecan weevil. Most know the pecan weevil in the larvae stage when we crack open a pecan only to find a little white worm enjoying your tasty pecan. The adult pecan weevils emerge from the soil in August to September, typically after a significant rain fall. While the shells of the pecan nuts on the tree are still green and soft, the adult weevils puncture a small hole in the shuck and shell. This puncture can allow the nut to lose water and thus causing it to fall prematurely a few days later. Since pecan weevils do double the damage by the adults puncturing the shell and the larvae eating the nut inside, we all want to know what can be done. The critical time to control weevils is from August to September when it is emerging from the ground. Insecticides such as carbaryl (Sevin) can be sprayed every 7 days from mid-August to mid-September to provide control. Since the trees are often too big to spray, focus the insecticide around the base of the trunk and ground directly under the tree. Remember to read and follow insecticide labels for proper use. It is also important to pick up fallen pecans off the ground to prevent the pecan weevil larvae from leaving the pecan and entering the ground where it will remain until next year.
  • Pecan Scab. Pecan scab is a fungal disease that attacks the leaves and shucks of a pecan tree. Pecan scab can be identified by dark, small, circular spots. On the shucks, these spots will look sunken and can eventually turn the whole shuck black. Severely infected shucks can fall prematurely. For a homeowner, it is not feasible to spray a fungicide because of the size of tree and inability to get good coverage on leaves. One can be diligent about cleaning the ground well beneath the tree. Raking up leaves, and pecan shucks will help reduce the amount of pecan scab that hangs around until next year to infect the tree again.

There are a few other causes that can lead to premature falling of pecans. Some of these causes can include too little fertilizer and drought. Even though the weather maybe out of our control for preventing premature dropping of pecans, taking time to rake up leaves and pick up fallen pecan shucks can reduce your pest problems next year.

Upcoming Gardening Events in Wayne County:
• Wayne Regional Agriculture Fair: Sept. 27 – Oct. 6. Demonstration gardens created by the Wayne County Master Gardeners will be open for viewing during fair hours. Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer gardening questions.

NCSU & NC A&T University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.

Jessica Strickland
Extension Agent
North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Wayne County Center
P. O. Box 68
Goldsboro, NC  27533
Phone: 919-731-1525
Fax: 919-731-1511

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