Traditional themes of improved pecan marketing and orchard management and updates on rising economic concerns about crop insurance and air quality regulations will be the focus of this year's 37th annual Western Pecan Growers Conference March 2-4 at the Hilton Las Cruces.

“This is one of the top pecan conferences in the country,” said John White, Dona Ana County horticulture agent with New Mexico State University Extension. “It comes a great time of the year with growers just finishing their harvests and starting preparations for the upcoming season.”

More than 700 pecan industry growers, processors and scientists are expected to attend the annual conference, said Esteban Herrera, conference coordinator and emeritus horticulturist with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service.

Two separate pecan grower panels will cover pecan marketing alternatives, nontraditional markets and marketing of lower quality pecans, he said. Pecan growers can also take part in contests, educational workshops and one of the nation's leading pecan equipment shows.

The trade show kicks off this year's conference March 2 with booths from companies specializing in pecan machinery, equipment, chemicals and fertilizers.

Later, a pecan food fantasy contest, a competition for pecan-based goodies such as pies, cakes and candies, will be held. Awards include a $250 prize for best traditional pecan pie.

All contest categories are due March 2, between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. For more information on the pecan food fantasy contest, contact Karin Davidson at 505-526-3949.