As pruning activities continued in his pecan orchards near in early March, Dave Salopek had his fingers crossed that his dormant trees suffered no damage from temperatures that plummeted to 6 degrees below zero a month earlier.
“I asked a lot of tree experts, and they don’t think the fruit wood was damaged,” he says. “But the standard answer was that they weren’t completely sure.”
That severe cold snap may reduce pressure on the trees later from major insect pests – yellow and black aphids. However, it’s likely to also to restrict the numbers of beneficial insects in his orchards, says Salopek, who operates as David Salopek Farms near Las Cruces, N.M.
Normally, he and other Mesilla Valley growers receive one or two rains each winter — but not this season, which has been exceptionally dry. As a result, there have been few weeds requiring control.
The snow pack in the mountains that supplies some of the water for his flood irrigated orchards was about average for this time of year. Normally, he gets about 2 acre-feet of water from his irrigation district each season.
“We don’t anticipate a full allotment this year,” Salopek says. “But right now, it looks like we’ll get a few irrigations from the district water.”
To prepare for his first irrigation, which is normally this month, he has been tilling the orchard floors. Beginning next month, he’ll make the first of four or five applications of liquid nitrogen between then and the end of June.
He’ll drill a 10-37-0 blend of nitrogen and phosphorus in five bands in the drip line on either side of his trees. Also in April, he’ll broadcast potassium in the form of potassium magnesium sulfate.
Starting with bud break in April or May, he’ll treat the trees with a micronutrient spray of zinc and manganese. As usual, he plans to make a total of five or six applications, spraying about every 10 days.
Since purchasing this year’s supply of fertilizers at the end of last year, Salopek has watched prices nearly double.
“There’s an advantage to buying fertilizer in December,” he says. “I’ve been doing that for almost 20 years.”