There are numerous variables that influence how soon a pecan tree will start producing nuts. The genetics of the tree has a major influence on how long it takes to begin production. Some trees are very precocious (bearing at a young age) while other trees take much longer. Cape Fear, Cheyenne, Chickasaw, Creek and Shoshoni are very precocious varieties. Stuart, Schley and Elliott are examples of varieties that generally take longer to begin producing nuts.
Grafting has an effect on the earliness of nut production. Young seedling pecan trees go through a juvenile stage before producing nuts. Juvenile trees usually grow straighter with a dominant central trunk. Grafted trees skip much of the juvenile stage because the scion wood grafted on the seedling is from a mature tree. Young grafted trees tend to be bushier with a lot of branching similar to the branching pattern on older trees. Grafted trees usually require training to develop a dominant central trunk.
Growing conditions can affect earliness of production. Trees that are planted in good soil with adequate moisture, good weed control and not overcrowded will start producing at an earlier age than trees growing in more stressful conditions.
A grafted pecan tree 4 to 6 feet tall planted in a good site and properly maintained will generally begin production in 6 to 7 years. The more precocious varieties may sometimes start production in 4 to 5 years. The less precocious varieties may take 8 to 10 years to bear.
Non-grafted seedling and native pecan trees often take 10 to 15 years to begin production.
The earliest-bearing pecan varieties are not necessarily the best varieties to grow. They start production at an early age and generally produce large crops. However, overproduction leads to poor nut quality and alternate bearing as the trees age.
Question answered by Dr. John Pyzner, LSU AgCenter pecan and fruit extension specialist.