As July was winding down, the 270 acres of pecan trees at D&E Orchards near Hatch, N.M., appeared to be on their way to producing a normal or slightly smaller on-year crop.
Don Hacky, his wife, Ellie, and their son, Roy, own and run the Mesilla Valley operation. Their trees, which range in age from 4 to 12 years, are mostly Western Schley, with Bradley and Wichita pollinators.
“The nut size is good, and we have a pretty decent crop on most of the orchards, except for some weak spots here and there,” Don says.
However, he’s concerned that the good nut set this spring may have been hurt by an unusually long stretch of intense winds earlier this year.
“High winds blew incessantly, starting in March, and didn’t quit until the third week of June. We’ve had heavy winds before, but not like this — the wind would blow strongly for three four days. Then, we’d have a day or two of breezes, before the wind would hammer us again.”
Many leaves were either blown off the trees or shredded. Because they have fewer wind-shielding limbs and foliage to begin with, the younger trees were affected more than the older ones.
“I’m concerned that the trees may not have enough leaf area to produce the amount of food needed for a normal quality nut,” Don says. “I think they will. Since the winds stopped, the trees have been able to put on new interior leaves, and we hope that’s enough to finish the crop in good shape.”
The restriction in photosynthesis due to reduced leaf area could also result in a larger than normal August nut drop.
The Hackeys have irrigation wells and enough water for their trees this year, despite the severe drought-induced curtailment of their surface water allocation. Normally, their irrigation district allots them 2 acre-feet annually, but this year, that will be just 4 acre inches.
“Water had been in the canal about 30 days before they shut it out the first week of July,” Don says. “We had to use it by then or lose it.”
He figures the cost of pumping that extra water will add $100 an acre to their production costs this season.
Until mid-July, their trees had experienced almost no insect pressures, but that changed in the third week. “Then, we were in the middle of an aphid explosion,” Don says. “There’s a lot of spraying going on in the area.”
He expects this wave of yellow aphids to be followed later by black aphids. “We hope that spray will knock them back without hurting the beneficial insects, so we’ll only need one treatment.”