Pecan growers in New Mexico’s lower Rio Grande River Valley welcomed the early July return of the annual monsoon season. Typically, this influx of tropical moisture from early July through September provides most of the area’s annual precipitation. However, over the past few seasons, that hasn’t amounted to much, says Louie Salopek.

He’s the youngest of four brothers who grow 1,150 acres of pecans in the Mesilla Valley north of Las Cruces, N.M. This year’s monsoon season couldn’t have come soon enough for the family.

“We’ve been in a serious drought for several years, and the rains this year are really helping our growing seasons,” he says. “We’re getting more rain this summer than we’ve had in the past four or five years.”

The water level in the Elephant Butte Reservoir, the source of water provided by his irrigation district, has dropped to just 3 percent of capacity, Salopek reports.

Recent storms also brought relief from the 100 degree heat of this spring and summer that had been stressing the trees, he notes. The cooler temperatures should help improve sizing of the nuts.

Rains also washed away the dew left on the leaves by aphids and the trees look greener and fresher.

Pressure from the yellow and black aphids as well as the area’s other main insect pest, pecan nut casebearer, has been unusually light this year, Salopek says.

He expects a decent crop from the area’s orchard. This is an on-year in pecan’s alternate bearing production cycle in most N.M. orchards. “Doña Anna County probably won’t have a great crop, but it’s looking like an alright crop,” Salopek says.

Nationwide, though, this is an off-year year and production is likely to be down from the 2012 crop. At the same time, scab problems are reported to be limiting crop size in Georgia this year, he notes.

Salopek sees signs of improving prices for the 2013 crop. “From what I hear, Fancy Halves are in short supply,” he says. “That should help bring up prices for pecans in general.”

Salopek, a past president of the Western Pecan Growers Association, continues to serve on its board. The group met in late July. “Overall, we’re optimistic about this year’s crop and hopeful that price levels will improve with this year’s crop,” he says.

Salopek also serves on the board of the recently-established U.S. Pecan Council.

“The organization was formed to help improve the market for U.S.-grown pecans by getting everyone in the industry on the same page,” Salopek says. “A lot of new pecan orchards are coming into production here in the U.S and other countries. We want to improve the international marketing programs for our pecans so that we can keep our prices at levels that are good for both growers and shellers.”

More information about the organization is available at www.uspecans.org.

 

This report is from Tree Nut Farm Press, a twice-monthly electronic newsletter published by Western Farm Press during the growing season. If you would like to receive Tree Nut Farm Press, see here for sign-up.

 

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