New Mexico State University Extension pecan specialist Richard Heerema said that state’s pecan harvest has been a little unusual and interesting.
The early season varieties coming from the state that leads the nation in pecan production had good quality, but represent only a small portion of the total pecan harvest. Later varieties had a bit of variation in crop sizes, and challenges with shuck split after a surprise October freeze event.
Some orchards experienced more of an alternate bearing cycle than other orchards, Heerema said. Variability in production from orchard to orchard more pronounced than last season. When the freeze hit, Heerema said that growers were concerned with the effect on shuck split. Over time he said, most of the crop did complete shuck split, but there was a percentage of the crop that had to be run through a huller to remove the shuck. Nut quality did not appear to be affected. Harvest of the crop by mid January was estimated to be 75 percent complete. Harvest was expected to continue through February.
No unusual pest pressure was noted during the growing season. Heerema said black pecan aphid hit some orchards early, but not throughout the season. Pecan case bearer is being managed with programs in Arizona and New Mexico to keep it from spreading. Quarantines are in place to keep the pecan weevil from spreading into uninfested regions.
While New Mexico is moving up in production as trees mature, Heerema said Arizona is experiencing the biggest growth in pecan acreage in the southwest. Cochise County, in the southeastern region has the largest percentage of growth in the past ten years. The area between Phoenix and Tucson is also adding more pecan acres.
According to the USDA, New Mexico pecan growers edged out Georgia for the top pecan production spot in 2019 with a record high 97 million in shell pounds. This is a 6 percent increase over 2018. About 70 percent of the state’s pecans are produced in the Mesilla Valley in Dona Ana County, 20 percent in the Pecos River Valley in Chaves and Eddy counties and four percent in Luna and Sierra counties. Western Schley is the predominant variety of pecan grown in New Mexico.