"Pecan trees are attractive to growers because they tend to generate higher revenue per acre than other crops grown in New Mexico," Heerema said.

The donated pecan trees were planted this spring on 10 acres at the Leyendecker Plant Science Center south of Las Cruces and on another 10 acres at NMSU's Agricultural Science Center at Artesia. Heerema said it takes five to six years for pecan trees to start producing nuts, and about seven years for a commercial crop.

The trees at the Leyendecker site have a historically common spacing of 30 by 30 feet. They are the Pawnee variety, which Heerema said is relatively new for New Mexico. The trees at the Artesia site have a spacing of 20 by 40 feet. The varieties there are split, with half Pawnee and the other half Western. The differences in spacing, variety and location will help in research.

NMSU previously had just seven acres of pecans for research at the university's Leyendecker Plant Science Center. The plot, planted in the 1970s, was originally designed to be a spacing and variety trial. Heerema said those trees weren't the most ideal sample orchard because they are planted in heavy soil, which is different from most other pecan groves in the region. NMSU has two other plots of pecans, each one-acre in size in Los Lunas. Because of their small size, those plots are used more for demonstration purposes than for research.