Northern Pecans, Hickories, other nut tree species, etc.


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In the Introduction thread, Mennoniteman asked me about pecans for Pennsylvania.
There are nut growers in PA, who've been growing northern/midwestern pecans for decades... some quite famously - John Hershey at Downington, Parker Coble at Gettysburg.
So... Mennoniteman, here goes:

First, a very brief primer on pecans, and this is by no means all-inclusive.
Pecans are going to perform best on a deep bottomland-type site with plenty of moisture. Droughty upland sites are gonna be problematic for adequate moisture to accomplish filling nut kernels unless you're set up to irrigate them. Pecans are mostly non-self-fertile, so you need at least two pecan trees with compatible pollen-shed/nutlet-receptivity bloom patterns... typically referred to as Type I (protandrous - pollen catkins first) or Type II (protogynous - nutlet flowers first) in order to get good nut set - You need a Type I to pollenize your Type II, and a Type II to pollenize your Type I.

There are plenty of good 'northern/midwestern' and even 'far-northern' pecan varieties that will grow and produce in most zone 6 and even zone 5 settings. I would only recommend varieties that have proven themselve to have good resistance to pecan scab. If you're not set up with an air-blast sprayer, you don't want scab-susceptible varieties.

So... for zone 6(and parts of zone 5), my recommendations would be:
Tier 1: Major (Type I), Kanza (Type II), Hark (I), Oswego (II), GreenRiver (II), Posey (II), Shepherd (I), Warren 346(Type I - ripens very early, which may be important for short-season growers), Lakota (II). There may be other regionally-adapted selections that would qualify, but these are well-known, and available (limited) in the nursery trade.

Tier II: Some of these are scab-susceptible, but might work, at least for a time in areas where scab pressure is light; some may have issues with low productivity or unappealing kernel appearance, etc. I have some of these in my plantings, but won't be grafting any more of them.
Colby (Type II, often classified as 'far-northern', large for an ultra-northern variety), Peruque( Type I, early ripening, thin shell, depredated heavily by crows/jays, scab-susceptible), Jayhawk(II), Lucas(II - ultra-northern, small nut, early ripening), Norton (II), Osage (I), Pawnee (I), SureCrop (II), Yates 68 (I).

Dr. Bill Reid had a nice discussion of pecan cultivars, with photos, descriptions, etc. here:

Availability of good, grafted northern pecan selections is limited. With the loss of John Brittain at Nolin River Tree Nursery, last year, I'm down to only being able to recommend my friend David Hughes at Rock Bridge Trees; his trees are container-grown, so should transplant with minimal shock. Ernie Grimo at Grimo Nut Nursery offers a number of 'ultra-northern' pecans... but IDK if any issues with nursery stock coming in from Canada. There may be other sources for good northern/midwestern varieties if you're not grafting your own, but I don't know them.
Seedling pecans will, in general, take close to 20 years to come into bearing... and even if they're seedlings of known quality cultivars, there's no guarantees with regard to nut size/quality or disease resistance.

Based on my own personal experiences with a dozen or more varieties, I'll recommend against planting hicans (hickoryXpecan hybrids)... while they sound exciting... they're vigorous growers, shy bearers, pollenation is a problem, with most nuts ending up as 'blanks' - unfilled kernels, and weevils seem to prefer hicans over pecans or hickories.
If you want a good hickory, plant some like Grainger, Porter, or Yoder#1 (shagbarks) or Fayette, Simpson #1, or Longnecker (shellbark).

If you're in a warmer zone... these recommendations don't necessarily hold - other than it's in your best interest to plant scab-resistant varieties.
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