Pecan growers in West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California face fewer insect and other pests than producers farther east, and Richard Heerema, New Mexico State University Extension pecan specialist, wants to keep it that way.
“So far, we’ve been fortunate in that not all the pests in Texas, Oklahoma and the central part of the country where pecans are native have made it this far west,” he says.
It’s a different case in Georgia, where, like the West, pecans have been introduced. The pecan industry in that state is much older than in the western states, and “A lot of pests from the native pecan areas have gotten into Georgia,” Heerema says.
In addition to — the black margined, yellow pecan, and the black pecan aphids — the only other major pecan pests in the West, he notes, are the pecan nut casebearer, first spotted in El Paso, Texas, in 1988 and the hickory shuckworm, found first in West Texas in 1990.
“Arizona and California have even fewer of these pests than New Mexico,” Heerema says. “We need to keep the other pests excluded from this region.
“The pecan weevil has appeared in New Mexico several times. In each case, the state’s pecan industry and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture have done a good job of focusing their energy on successfully eradicating it. That doesn’t happen very often, and it’s an expensive proposition. We don’t want a pest threat to get that far — we need to stop it before it gets into a state.”
One way to do that is by following the law when transporting nursery stock or nuts from one state to another.
Another pest invasion defense is to thoroughly clean equipment that might have worked in fields or orchards containing the pest. For example, Heerema says, removing all soil from implements before moving them can prevent spreading pests, like nematodes, to an uninfested area. Cleaning out all pecans hidden in the nooks and crannies of harvesting equipment, trailers and the like can also stop the spread of certain pests.
“Keep your eyes open for any unusual insect or other possible pest,” he says. “For example, if you find a pecan nut with little BB-like holes in the shell, it’s important to check to see if they were caused by the pecan weevil.”