In early June, following pollination of pecan trees in April and May, New Mexico grower Frank Paul Salopek was pleased with the condition of his trees and the nut set.
He, his mother, Oleta, and his two brothers, Sam and Greg, own and operate Frank Salopek and Sons Farms in the Mesilla Valley near Las Cruces. They grow 600 acres of mostly Western Schley, with some Wichita and Bradley pollinators.
Other than setting this year’s crop back a bit, he’s seen no other impact on the trees from the three days of zero degree and colder weather in early February.
“We did some heavy pruning this past winter and, for the most part, the trees are looking really good, and so is the nut set,” says Frank Paul. “The orchards look like they should for an on-year like this one. As long as Mother Nature cooperates, it should be a pretty good season.”
To this point, he wouldn’t have minded a little more help from Mother Nature. At the start of June, however, one of the Salopeks’ farms did receive some precipitation — just two-tenths of an inch. That was after the trees had gone more than 100 days without rain.
Frank Paul is not expecting much help with water from his irrigation district, either.
“Our allocation this year is, essentially nonexistent,” he says. “So far, we’ve been told that we’ll get just 4 acre inches for the seasons — that’s only enough for one irrigation.” The rest of the water for this year’s crop will come from the Salopeks’ wells.
Winds are common in the area from March until about mid-May, but this year they were still blowing, and blowing briskly, into early June. On the second Tuesday of June, the thermometer registered 100 degrees and the wind was whipping through his orchards at 35 mph.
“We’ve been battling winds since March, and there’s no letup in sight,” he says. “Recently, we’ve had a few days of 60 mph winds, which beat the heck out of trees, knocking off branch tips and breaking limbs.”
In another unusual twist to this season, no pecan nut casebearers have been trapped so far in the Salopeks’ orchards.
“Normally, by now we would have treated once, but we haven‘t done any spraying yet,” Frank Paul says. “I think the cold winter weather took care of them this year.”
Later this month he’ll be checking trees for black and yellow aphids. “They’ve been causing headaches for the past several years,” he says. “This is the first season in while that we haven’t had to deal with them by now.”