At the end of August, the on-year pecan crop developing in the Chase Farms orchards of southeastern New Mexico appeared to be a strong one.
The orchards include 1,800 acres of trees in the Artesia area and another 1,000 acres of orchards near Roswell.
“The trees are looking really good,” says Bill Kuykendall, who manages the Pecos Valley operation. “The trees are loaded pretty well with nuts. We had an excellent bloom and a good set with clusters at the terminal buds where they’re supposed to be.”
“We try to push our trees to reach their potential each year, with our hedging, nutrition and irrigation management practices,” Kuykendall says. “Usually, our nut meat percentage ranges from 57 percent to 59 percent.
The orchards have received about 6 inches of rain since the first of the year, Kuykendall notes. That’s about half the normal amount, with most of the rain falling in May and June. The summer monsoons have added little to the total. “We’ve seen a lot of clouds in the sky most days but the rain is going around us and we’re not catching much,” he says.
The pecan fields are flood irrigated except for about 5 percent of the trees where solid set sprinklers have been installed with newer plantings over the past five years
Chase Farms adds new pecan acreage every year, using either rootstock or older trees thinned from established fields and transplanted. Over the past half a dozen, he’s been planting alternatives to Western Schley, the predominate variety grown.
He’s been trying varieties such as Lakota and Nacono. The majority of the new plantings have been Pawnee, which Kuykendall began harvesting five years ago. “They’re doing well,” he says. “We think they’ll allow us to extend our harvesting season and, possible, hit the early pecan market.
Controlling insect pests hasn’t been a problem for Kuykendall this year. That’s despite rain in early July that prevented timely spray treatment to catch the first generation of pecan nut casebearer. “Casebearer numbers have been on the light side this year,” he says. His usual spring insecticide application helped keep yellow and black aphids under control this season.
Kuykendall plans to cut off the water for his trees around Oct. 20, in anticipation of harvest getting underway around Thanksgiving. The actual start date depends on when the first hard freeze occurs.
“We don’t have the facilities to dry our pecans down,” he explains. “So, we need a good freeze to drop the leaves and allow air and sunshine to finish drying the nuts to an acceptable level before we shake the trees.”