Rincon Valley pecans surviving challenging year

Rincon Valley pecans surviving challenging year

Bill Halsell’s allotment of Rio Grande water has been reduced this year from 3 acre-feet to just 3.5 inches.

Bill Halsell’s 500 acres of producing pecans near Rincon, N.M., are developing on schedule.

“The trees look fresh and green, the leaves are large and threes have a lot of nuts on them. They look very good,” reports the Doña Ana County grower.

Not that Mother Nature has done much to encourage the crop. The brisk spring winds that usually subside by the end of April have continued to blow. Rain has been sparse since last August. Temperatures have also been warmer than usual. All this adds up to high water demands.

Unfortunately, his allotment of Rio Grande water has been reduced this year from 3 acre-feet to just 3.5 inches. He didn‘t even get all of that when water was finally released in late June. “The district ran out of water,” he says. “I may have gotten 2 inches, not even enough for one full irrigation.”

However, his groundwater supplies are adequate for his flood irrigated orchards, he notes. Water is just 75 feet deep, but salt content is high.

To neutralize the salt buildup, Halsell incorporates 250 pounds per acre of elemental sulfur granules every three or four years, once in April and again in October.

His trees are still recovering from the effects of sub-zero temperatures two years ago, which disrupted their alternate bearing cycle. Last year, his in-shell pecan production averaged about 2,400 pounds per acre. “This year’s crop doesn’t appear to be as heavy as last year,” he says. “But, it still looks good.”

An early June foliar spray controlled high yellow aphid in his vineyards. Pressure from that insect has been increasing in the past few years. The black aphid, which he treats in August, poses less of a threat.

As usual, the pecan nut casebearer required control earlier this spring. Based on the number of moths caught in pheromone traps, he included an insecticide with his foliar zinc spray to knock out the first generation. He’ll continue monitoring populations of the remaining two generations, treating as needed.

Halsell’s orchards floors have been smoothed to prepare them for the winter harvest. In the spring, he runs a tillage tool through his orchard after every third irrigation to control weeds. It features spring tooth cultivation a roller to break up the clods. The heavy-duty, custom implement is made by Dave Koenig, a New Mexico farmer. His company, Dave Koenig Enterprises, Inc., is in Mesquite, N.M.

He uses contact herbicides to control weeds after that cultivation.

Halsell’s fertilizer program includes five foliar zinc sprays in the spring and an application of 250 pounds per acre of ammonium phosphate. Between late April and October he feeds his trees additional nitrogen, applying a total of 1,500 pounds of ammonium sulfate per acres spread over four treatments

“I used to be concerned that putting on nitrogen late in the season would encourage a burst of growth, which would suffer freeze damage in the winter,” he says. “But, after learning about Louisiana State University research showing no adverse effects of doing that, I don’t worry about it anymore.”

This report is from Tree Nut Farm Press, a twice-monthly electronic newsletter published by Western Farm Press during the growing season. If would like to receive Tree Nut Farm Press go to the Western Farm Press home page (westernfarmpress.com) and sign up for it and other Farm Press electronic newsletters.


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