Pecan trees in some areas of New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley began budding in mid-March. That’s a little earlier than normal, says Louie Salopek, president of Western Pecan Growers Association.

He and his three brothers — Dickie, Bill, and Michael — own Salopek 4-MP Farms and Western Blends, a fertilizer distributor, based in Las Cruces, N.M.

Based on the amount of irrigation they’ve been allocated, he’s expecting a pretty good crop this year.

Like most pecan growers in valley, the Salopeks will fertilize their trees once a month from late March to late June.

“By then, the trees will have received about 80 percent of their nutrients for the year,” Louie says. “We’ll apply the rest of the fertilizer between mid-September and early October, which will carry over to provide energy for the trees when they start blooming next year.”

As they have for more than 20 years, the Salopeks will knife in liquid acid forms of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulfur, one inch to three inches deep, depending on soil type, in six one-inch-wide bands on either side of the trees.

“The acid formulation improves availability of the nutrients by reducing soil pH,” Louie says.

The drop in fertilizer prices this year will help improve the profit potential for the 2009 crop, he says. “After skyrocketing last year, current prices are back to where they were two or three years ago. Still, they’re higher than five or six years ago.”