Despite earlier threats from bone-numbing weather and high winds, and now drought, New Mexico pecan grower Buddy Achen’s trees were in great shape as the season moved into June.
“They’re looking really good,” he says. “They’re growing well, are a nice green, and they’re healthy.”
Achen has been producing pecans commercially for 19 years on his AAA Farms near Las Cruces, which has a little over 700 acres of trees from one to 50 years old. They are mainly Western Schley, along with a few Bradley and Wichita pollinators.
A few trees in the Mesilla Valley were damaged from a winter cold blast; lows were below zero for three days in early February.
However, more trees suffered from the winds, which frequently blow through the valley in the spring. Achen says there was a lot of wind damage in his area, especially on the western sides of orchards. No trees were downed, but many limbs were broken and a number of leaves and nutlets were torn off.
The biggest concern for him and other Mesilla Valley growers this season is the continuing drought.
“It will have a large impact. Growers without wells will be affected severely. Driving around the valley you can see small orchards that are really sick — younger and older yellow trees with few leaves and struggling, or even dead. Although I’ve heard it’s been this bad in years past, I’ve never seen it.”
As a result of his irrigation district’s low water supplies, he’s expecting his allotment to be reduced to just 4 inches this season. He will receive that water, the equivalent of one irrigation, this month.
He’s making even more efficient use of water through precise timing and application of flood irrigations. In addition to conserving water, this will also help limit the impact on profits of rising costs for diesel, natural gas and propane used to power his irrigation pumps.
By the end of May, Achen had completed the last of four foliar feedings, which began at bud break. At the start of the month, as usual, he set out pecan nut casebearer traps.
“Normally, I would have caught some by now, but I haven’t got any thus far,” Achen says. “I haven’t had any pressure from them this year — I think the extreme cold in February may have killed them. Last year, I had enough of the insects to warrant spraying to control them.”