Growing Pecans – Crop Nutrition 101

What you need to know about pecan fertilization, best practices, and more

Crop Nutrition Information for Growing Pecans (Carya illinoinensis):

  • Fertilization depends on soil test and leaf analysis

  • Soil tests should be taken in the year of establishment then every 2 years thereafter

  • The most accurate indicator of orchard fertility is the nutrient status of the leaves

  • Ideally leaf samples should be taken in July for analysis

Key Nutrients:

  • Nitrogen(N) is the most limiting nutrient, and most likely to become deficient
  • Potassium (K) is the second most important nutrient in pecan production after N
  • Normal leaf concentrations should be: N 2.3 and 3.0%; K .75 – 1.75%
  • Pecan trees are heavy users of Zinc; it is essential for quality and yield
  • Zinc is often applied as a foliar spray to ensure quick uptake

Nutrient Requirements:

Nutrient balance is key to quality yields. Based on lbs/acre, these are the essential nutrients requirements (Wells & Conner, 2007)

Element Sufficiency Range

  • N(%) 2.5-3.0
  • P (%) 0.14-0.3
  • K(%) 1.3-2.5
  • Mg(%) 0.35-0.6 Ca(%) 1.3-1.75
  • S (%) 0.25-0.5
  • Zn (ppm) 50-100
  • Fe (ppm) 50-300 Mn (ppm) 100-800 B (ppm) 50-100
  • Cu (ppm) 6-30

Role of Nutrients:

Key quality and yield parameters can be affected by different nutrients. See how they can influence your harvest.

+ = improving    – = decreasing    +/- = different results, depending on the rate of nutrient applied

Yield: N++, P+, K+, Mg+, Ca+, S+ Quality: N+, P+, K++, Mg+, Ca+, S+

Pecan Harvest in Alabama


  • During the growth of the crop, leaf tissue analysis are the best available tools to determine e whether the crop is taking up sufficient nutrients to be corrected by side dressing or foliar application if necessary. Leaves should be sampled for analysis between July and August as this is the time the nutrient in the leaves are most stable. 

  • Pecans love Zinc, and it is generally applied with a foliar application. Young and fastgrowing trees need Zinc in the spring at budbreak, continuing for three sprays in 2-3 week intervals. 

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