Many pecan varieties are well suited for the commercial grower as well as the backyard grower that just want one tree. Of the 200 or more varieties commonly grown in the United States, none has been completely satisfactory in Oklahoma to the grower and consumer.
Varieties are generally classified according to their origin. Many of the southeastern varieties grown in Oklahoma originated as discoveries of seeding trees in Mississippi. Most of the western varieties were selected from nuts planted in Texas. Some are even discovered from native trees.
It should be pointed out here that there is no such thing as a “paper shell” pecan variety. Pecans are either grafted pecan or native pecan varieties. The term “paper shell” was a description used on some varieties that were developed in which the shell was thin enough for easy cracking.
When selecting a pecan variety, the growers should consider their taste and needs. If the grower is in commercial production, they should consider the varieties best suited for the in-shell or shelling market.
A note here for backyard growers. A pecan tree in the backyard will draw every squirrel in the neighborhood to your trees. Controlling squirrels in the backyard is difficult, if not impossible, so just share your crop and enjoy the playful antics of squirrels in your trees.
The in-shell market prefers large pecans, but some growers have successfully established retail markets with native pecans. Pecans for the shelling market are usually purchased based on kernel percentage, with a deduction for damage from pest or other causes.
Backyard growers, when selecting a variety, should look at the cold hardiness of the tree and disease susceptibility. Trees that bore a heavy crop load are more susceptible to pecan drop and winter cold damage than trees that bore an average crop. Varieties highly susceptible to the fungus scab should not be planted in low-lying, humid areas or restricted areas of the back yard. Plant only varieties that are for dry areas with good air movement.
So, what are the most popular varieties for Southwest Oklahoma? The following varieties are suited for Southwestern Oklahoma.
Choctaw pecans are blocky, attractive, thin shelled, low scab susceptibility and moderate cold hardiness. Trees tend to overbear during some years and may benefit from fruit thinning.
GraKing pecans are large, attractive, low scab susceptibility and moderate cold hardiness. Trees are productive, but with less tendency to overload than Choctaw. This variety is well suited for planting in marginal sites such as a backyard.
Kiowa pecans are large, attractive, but lack cold hardiness and the fruit mature late. This variety can be used in protected areas and in combination with early and medium maturity to extend the harvesting season.
Maramec pecans are large, attractive nuts that typically have bright, well-filled kernels. The trees are moderate in scab susceptibility and susceptible to cold damage. They have shown fewer tendencies to overbear than most other large-fruited varieties.
Stuart pecans are the most widely recognized variety grown. Nuts are medium in quality and have low scab susceptibility. Trees are upright, medium in prolificacy, with only a small tendency to overbear.
Western pecan trees are productive, but have a tendency to alternate bearing. Nuts are medium in quality. Trees are highly susceptible to scab and only adapt to arid areas of the state such as Southwest Oklahoma.
Wichita pecan trees are very productive, high quality and the nuts are very attractive. Trees are more susceptible to zinc shortage than most varieties. This variety is very susceptible to cold damage and scab, making it necessary to plant in Southwest Oklahoma.
Burkett variety is not recommended even though many growers swear that it is the best tasting pecan. The problem is that it only produces a good crop every four years.
Jim Coe lives in Lawton and writes a weekly gardening column.