GARDENING: Managing zinc deficiency in pecansFloyd is a horticulturist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service. He can be reached at 498-4071 in Ector County or 686-4700 in Midland County or by email at

The leaves and nuts of a pecan tree can tell you a whole lot about its current health. Pecans use zinc to grow large healthy leaves which allow for maximum photosynthesis. As a result, pecan nuts can completely fill up with the tasty insides we so cherish. On the other hand, a zinc deficiency will short-circuit your efforts to grow a full crop of pecans. The good news is that zinc problems can be prevented or corrected when caught early.
To identify a zinc deficiency in pecans, look for leaves that are curling or appear wavy. Are there clusters of leaves mixed in with and along bare branches? Also, crack open a nut as they begin to form. Is it hollow or poorly filled? These are indicators of zinc deficiency.
The best way to apply zinc to pecans is through sprays that include either zinc nitrate or zinc sulfate as soon as new leaves begin to bud out. Additional applications should be done every two or three weeks until the first of June. Zinc nitrate is less likely to burn the leaves of neighboring landscape plants and is therefore more frequently used in urban settings.
Granular applications of zinc are ineffective for pecans. The trees simply don’t have access to this nutrient in our soils, even when it’s present in high amounts. Zinc becomes so tightly bound to West Texas soils that roots can’t take it up.
If you don’t have equipment powerful enough to spray the top of your pecan tree, contact a certified arborist for the job. It’s worth the extra effort to completely cover your tree’s foliage completely if you want the best possible pecans. Quick tip, if your tree needs additional fertilizer or pesticides, you can mix the zinc with many other products and kill two birds with one stone.