While drought conditions and a shortage of irrigation water in many cases has stressed Southwest pecan crops for a third year in a row, reports about condition and harvest prospects are mixed as growers hold on to hope of a successful year in spite of the challenges.

July rainfall across large areas of Texas and beneficial showers in south and southeastern New Mexico have provided some relief from dry summer conditions and have helped to lower heat stress in trees. But with early harvest still two to three months away, many challenges remain for commercial growers.

In New Mexico it appears to be an on-year in pecan’s alternate bearing production cycle for most growers. While irrigation allotments from both the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers have been extremely limited, application of ground water irrigation appears to have been sufficient so far to sustain trees and the current nut crop. Pest pressure from aphids and pecan nut casebearers has been light to moderate in most high-production areas.

New Mexico State University Extension Service is reminding pecan growers that August is a good time to check for nitrogen levels by performing leaf analysis to determine if nitrogen is required to guarantee kernel fill. Nitrogen requirements and application schedules are different for on-year/off-year production cycles. During off-years nitrogen application is generally limited to critical times for leaf and shoot growth in the spring; on-year nitrogen is also required in September if leaf tissue concentrations fall below 2 percent to 3 percent.

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According to an Extension bulletin, proper levels of nitrogen not only improves nut quality but also assists winter survival of trees and promotes fruit set the following year.

In pecan-rich Eddy County, Carlsbad Irrigation District officials say recent rains came at the right time for pecan and cotton growers. Irrigation allotments are extreme low this year, but CID officials say if monsoon rains continue, they may increase allotments slightly in August. So far, pecan growers have mostly been required to rely on groundwater to sustain their orchards.