One of the focuses of this project is the development of improved pecan scion and rootstock varieties through modern pecan evaluation and selection approaches. New cultivars are needed that will provide higher yields and that will resistant to serious insect pests such as the yellow aphid complex and to diseases such as pecan scab. Work under this project benefits pecan producers as a result of higher yields and lower chemical costs associated with insect and disease control, which will increase profit margins. The consumer benefits as a result of increased pecan production efficiency resulting in more stable pecan prices, and from a cleaner environment due to diminished chemical applications to control pests. There is a potential of developing new varieties that have a higher level of phytochemicals for fresh consumption, but also to develop new food products based on the phytochemical properties of pecan. Additionally, a goal of this project is to develop research based processing technology to reduce food safety risk associated with pecan and increase economic competitiveness of Louisiana pecan processors. This project is important because critical knowledge gaps exist regarding the fate of pathogens and effect on quality of pecans after hot water or steam treatments. Specific objectives are as follows: A. Pecan Cultivar Evaluation and Selection 1. Develop pecan cultivars with characteristics superior to existing cultivars available to Louisiana growers. 2. Evaluate native seedlings and develop germplasm for future breeding and genetic studies. 3. Develop and evaluate rootstocks for potential use in commercial pecan production. B. Post-Harvest Physiology 1. Evaluate pecan cultivars and controlled-crossgermplasm for phytochemical concentrations.2. Identify the time and temperature parameters for hot water treatment during pecan processing that can be regarded as a kill step. Determine the effect of treatments on carbohydrate and tocopherol profiles and sensory qualities.
This project will benefit the pecan industry directly through the development of more productive and, profitable cultivars and rootstocks. Consumers of pecans will indirectly benefit by enhanced production and market stability. By developing pest resistant cultivars, this research will reduce production costs and environmental pollution, benefiting both producers and the general public. Beyond higher production, capacity and consumers are demanding cultivars with more consistent quality, better health benefits, and uniqueness as new products. The development of varieties with more consistent quality would help expand the consumption of pecans. The development of cultivars with accentuated health benefits or other unique traits would expand the pecan market and increase profits. One of the most important decisions facing growers when establishing new orchards is the choice of rootstock. The selection of scion varieties are well known for their impact on long-term productivity and profitability of an orchard, however, rootstock selection is often neglected. Rootstocks influences water and nutrient absorption, assimilate storage, anchorage, and biochemical synthesis. The use of improved or better adapted rootstocks can potentially increase tree production and nut quality. They also may allow orchard expansion into marginal sites not possible with current rootstocks. Awareness among consumers about the relationship between diet and health is a sign for food industries to pay more attention to the possibilities of health protecting properties in new product development. Currently, there is a growing interest in phytochemicals formally considered to be nonnutritive, but now have demonstrated they perform a physiological role in the human body. Limited research has been conducted to identify or develop pecan cultivars that maximize the health benefits of the nut. There is a potential of developing new varieties that have a higher level of phytochemicals for fresh consumption, but also to develop new food products based on the phytochemical properties of pecan. With the enactment of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) produce safety rule, producers who grow crops that are consumed raw will be required to take preventive control measures to reduce the risk of foodborne diseases (US-FDA 2014). FDA recommends a treatment process must achieve a 5 log reduction of microbial populations to be regarded as a kill step. Food products processed with a kill step will insure food safety in the final products. Thus, identifying a kill step in pecan processing is vital for reducing the food safety risk associated with pecans grown in orchards that are also used for pasture. The goal of this project is to develop research based processing technology to reduce food safety risk associated with pecan and increase economic competitiveness of Louisiana pecan processors. This project is important because critical knowledge gaps exist regarding the fate of pathogens and effect on quality of pecans after hot water or steam treatments.