Pecans and Deer

forestandfarmMay 19, 2014

Most of my plantings are part of a wildlife management program. I know most of you see wildlife as something that you must put up with and share your crop with, but you probably have the experience I need.

We have lots of hickory trees on our farm. They are largely ignored by wildlife except squirrels because they are so hard to crack. I recently discovered that you can graft pecans to hickory.

When I ask the hunting folks about pecans and deer I get completely opposite opinions. Some say deer walk past pecans and completely ignore them. Others say they come running for them.

As I started to think about this, it dawned on me that not all pecans are created equal. Some have shells that my be to hard for deer to crack. I'm sure some depends on what other foods are available.

I just started my grafting this spring. Based on the little information I could find, I settled on Kanza and Pawnee as my first varieties. My first criteria is that deer will readily use them. My second criteria was disease resistance. Unlike many of you, I won't be spraying these trees at all. That is what drew me to Kanza and I picked Pawnee as a pollination partner.

So, I'd like to hear from you. What varieties do you folks thing deer use the most. That is what I'd like to hear first. After that, I can narrow it down based on disease resistance, productivity, and other characteristics.

Thanks in advance!

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You should grow apple trees.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 5:32PM
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Any of the soft shell pecans the deer should eat. Around here they use propane cannons to keep the deer out of the pecan orchards.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 6:18PM
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It's usually done the other way - grafting hickories onto pecan rootstock. While you might have success with pecan on hickory, in general you'll probably see overgrowth of the pecan scion relative to the hickory understock, especially if you're using shagbark hickory. Shellbark hickory *might* give enough growth to suport pecan fairly well.
Bitternut hickory and bitter pecan are graft compatible with *some* pecans, but possibly not all.
Other hickory species, like mockernut,pignut, red hickory, etc.,will probably not work well, if at all, as successful understocks for pecan.

Kanza & Pawnee would be good selections for what you're wanting to accomplish. Peruque is another that would probably fit the bill.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 6:32PM
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Thanks for the help. I guess I should have done a bit more digging before I started. I have no idea what kind of Hickory I'm using. According to VDOF, we have:
â¢Hickory, Bitternut
â¢Hickory, Mockernut
â¢Hickory, Pignut
â¢Hickory, Shagbark

in VA. I'm pretty sure it is not shagbark. That bark is pretty unique and easy to identify.

I just looked at a few pictures on the internet. The Pignut leaves look darker green and glossier than my trees.

That leaves Bitternut and Mockernut. I don't remember enough detail about my trees to tell. However, these trees are growing on ridges, not stream bottoms. My soil is largely clay (Nasons).

So tell me why won't Mockernut likely work? Is it a structural thing or will the grafts likely be rejected outright?

Also, what are "soft shelled pecans". Are you referring to the varieties with thinner shells or does this refer to something else?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 7:59PM
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As Lucky said, I've only ever heard of people doing the reverse of what you're considering, i.e. grafting other hickory species onto pecan rootstock but not vice versa, so my bet, based solely on secondhand information, is that you're not going to be happy pursuing your idea, but in any case here's a good link for identifying hickory (and walnut) species.

Here is a link that might be useful: identifying hickories and walnuts

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 10:56PM
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I've never dealt with them before, so I can't really recommend them, but there's a nursery in Michigan, Cold Stream Farm, that sells 2-3' pecan seedlings for $6/ea for quantities over $25 (and less for smaller sizes.) That would seem like a good investment in rootstock.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 11:07PM
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Thanks! Great Link! I'll use it later this week when I get to the farm.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 11:26PM
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"Also, what are "soft shelled pecans". Are you referring to the varieties with thinner shells or does this refer to something else?"

Yes some varieties have a thinner shell than others.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 10:09AM
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As for purchasing root stock, that doesn't fit well with my application. Basically, I'm trying to leverage the well established root systems of my many naturally growing hickory trees, and have them produce mast that is consumed by a broader variety of wildlife than hickory nuts.

In general, I'm looking for low cost, high payoff, approaches. My first project was to convert the many native male persimmons to female trees with drop times between Oct and Jan. This is very low cost. Scions are either traded for free or purchased for a few dollars. First fruits occur in the third leaf when grafting a scion from a fruiting tree to rootstock with a well established root system.

I was looking for something similar with Hickory and Pecan, but I guess I'm hearing that it may not work.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 12:25PM
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The vagaries of pecan/hickory compatibility are not totally known, and some of what we do know is anecdotal in nature. Chromosome number may play a role, as may other factors, such as isoperoxidase enzymes, etc.
Mockernut has 64 chromosomes, pecan, shellbark, & shagbark have 32.
Also, I'm not sure but that there may be differences in compatibility across different 'races' of a specific species, depending upon location; are bitternut hickories in southern TN the *same* as those in upstate NY? I sure don't know.

Here are a few quick hits I got on a Google search:

Here is a link that might be useful: GW pecan-on-hickory thread

This post was edited by lucky_p on Tue, May 20, 14 at 15:02

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 3:00PM
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Thanks. Based on the responses I got on this thread, I started doing some digging and came across those same links.

At this point, I plant to just give it a go and see what happens.

I'm still looking for other variety suggestions that are particularly attractive to deer.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 10:15PM
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"Papershell' types - which, to me, means Mahan or Schley,would be good candidates - but scab susceptibility is pretty bad on those, and might tranlate into frequent crop losses.
You'll probably be better off with Pawnee,Kanza, Peruque, maybe some of the newer scab-resistant selections that are being touted for home/low-input plantings, like McMillan, Syrup Mill, Gafford, Carter, Jenkins - and the old standby, Elliott.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pecans for home/low-input plantings

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 12:37AM
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I plan on planting several trees for wildlife as well. I am planning on planting some American Persimmons, wild Plum, a few apple trees, as well as pecan seedlings. I figure it will take several years for the pecan seedlings to produce but they will be there for a long time. I have a couple pecan trees by my house that are about 75 years old.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 10:19AM
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Thanks for that link! It has great information. I took a look at Peruque. I seem to find conflicting information about scab resistence. Clearly for wildlife I'm in a zero input environment so that is a great place to start. I'll take a look at those varieties for shell thickness.


I'm dong a bunch of tree planting as well. I started a bunch of Dunstan chestnuts from nuts over the winter under lights. We planted about 150 last year and another 180 this year. It will be a while before they produce but as you say, they will be around for a long time.

We have native american persimmons growing on the property. Once I realized you can graft productive female scions to any tree and get fruit in the third leaf, I've fallen in love with grafting them. Last year I started over 500 persimmons from seed and planted them in the fall on our farm. Because I started them so late, I had a very low succes rate. I'm guessing 10%-20% right now. I started earlier this year and hope to plant more seedlings this week. These will be future root stock for grafting.

We have a few Keifer pear trees that we planted a few years ago and I'm experimenting with Jujube.

The key for wildife in my opinion is low maintenance. A few high maintenance trees like domestic apples can be great attractants, but in order to get production they need a lot of care and feeding. You can't afford to maintain enough trees to have a positive impact on the habitat. So my primary objective is to use trees that require near zero maintenance once established. That lets me support the volumes required to make a difference.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 12:16PM
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I used the ID guide someone posted above. It was a great resource for me. It looks like we have both Mockernut and Pignut on our place. There may be others, but I've found these two so far.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 8:07PM
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I'm in IN, but share many of the same issues. Deer won't touch the hickories. They swarm to the white oak acorns, but largely ignore the red oaks most of the time. We've been letting the persimmons grow wild as well as dumping seeds along our food plot. There were a few dozen coming up this spring, but hundreds growing in our front yard where I'm trying to keep them under control. Figures.

We've been trying to grow several varieties of oak with mixed success, but I'm also interested in starting some pecans. I've held off on ordering any due to the high cost upfront. Acorns and persimmon seeds are free, but I don't know of anyone who has a pecan tree. I've never done any grafting, but I'm interested to see how this works out for you. We have plenty of hickories around.

I frequently see our resident doe eating the honest locust pods with her fawns late in winter. They might be worth looking at if you don't mind the thorns. Looking at our property, they appear to spread easily, and I don't have to do anything to get them to grow. Might be another no maintenance tree to add to the property.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 11:35PM
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I believe the cultivars of honey locust that Hidden Springs Nursery sells, for instance, are thornless.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 7:33AM
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