"Our new orchards allow all kinds of NMSU researchers, including horticulturists, soil scientists, plant physiologists, agro-ecologists, entomologists, plant pathologists, weed scientists, agricultural engineers, agricultural economists and human nutritionists to conduct a broad array of studies for the benefit of this important industry in New Mexico," he said.

He stressed that while the bulk of the research may not begin until the trees are more mature and producing nuts, some research is already beginning.

"For example, Robert Flynn, Extension agronomist at the Artesia facility, and I are collaborating on a study in the new orchards out there," Heerema said. "We are investigating the potential for pecan tree uptake of soil-applied micronutrients, specifically zinc and iron, under alkaline and calcareous soil conditions. And at the Leyendecker orchard, I have plans for a graduate student to study the effects of manganese nutrition on leaf photosynthetic rates."

At Leyendecker, 500 Western Schley saplings from Linwood were planted on 10 acres in mid-April. The orchard block is adjacent to the 10-acre plot where 500 donated Pawnee saplings were planted last year. An additional seven acres of mature trees at Leyendecker are involved in research, for a total of 27 acres on that farm.

In addition to the 20 acres of pecan saplings at Leyendecker, the combined Linwood donations have supplied trees for about 16 acres at the Los Lunas facility and more than 18 acres at Artesia. The trees at Los Lunas are all Pawnees, while the orchard in Artesia is split almost equally among Pawnee, Western Schley and Wichita.

"It will be good to be conducting research on more of our own trees," Heerema said. "Local farmers have always been wonderful about allowing us to do research in their orchards, but we really can't conduct studies in a commercial orchard that might interfere to any great extent with the producer's normal practices. These new research orchards will allow us a wider range of experimentation."

Heerema stressed that the new orchards will also have great educational value. They will be available for Extension personnel conducting demonstrations for New Mexico pecan growers and they will provide hands-on experiences for NMSU students.