Pecan harvest short but good quality

January 7, 2014 • Local News

Visibility in a pecan orchard is obscured as workers harvest their crop, Tuesday afternoon. (Mark Wilson Photo)

This year’s pecan harvest in the Roswell area will produce a smaller crop than last year, but the quality is excellent, local growers said this week.

Harvesting is running a few weeks behind, but for an off year, the overall situation for Southeast New Mexico pecan farms is looking good.

“All in all, everything is going along as good as could, and the quality is looking real good,” said Bill Kuykendall, farm manager at Chase Farms in Artesia and Roswell.

[auth] Haley Farms in Roswell, with its 1,600 acres of some 40,000 trees, will wrap up harvesting in the next two to three weeks, said Bruce Haley. Early freezes in the late spring of 2013 affected some of the product, just as it had across the region.

“We’re about half done,” Haley said. “Our production is short due to some early freezes in the spring, about three of them that caught us early that took off a lot of our crop. But the quality is excellent. We’ll do all right.”

The trees in the city of Roswell should have a good crop, Haley said.

The size and quality of the pecans this year will help the growers when it comes time for market. Prices have picked up from last year, Haley said.

New Mexico is expected to produce 55-60 million pounds of pecans this year, said Phillip Arnold, president of the New Mexico Pecan Growers Association. Eastern New Mexico, in Roswell, Artesia and the Carlsbad area, is on an off-cycle this year, having produced a heavy crop last year. Several freezes last spring also hurt the eastern side of the state, Arnold said.

With pecans, growers have on and off years. During off years, growers can only expect half or a quarter of the production they had the year before.

“They had a large crop on the eastern side of the state last year, on the order of about 20 million pounds,” Arnold said. “This year, they’ll probably make maybe half of that or less.”

The majority of pecans grown in the state, up to 75 percent, are harvested in the Mesilla and Hatch valleys.

Growers have started staggering production years, and pruning to create better quality pecans and stabilize production throughout the state, Arnold said.

“What ends up happening is, each year the quality of pecans is pretty good,” Arnold said. “We go into a more moderated system. It’s made a big change in production in this area. It’s stabilizing production. It becomes a supply issue. When the eastern side of New Mexico had a heavy crop, Las Cruces was in an off-cycle.”

Chase Farms, with 3,300 acres in the valley between Roswell and Artesia, will have a smaller crop than normal but the pecans are looking good, Kuykendall said.

“If you have a few less nuts, then (the trees) can do a better job of it. They have the water and the nutrients and they finish a little stronger,” Kuykendall said.

The majority of the pecans are sent to a shelling plant in Texas and some are exported in the shell to China.

After the harvest, the work continues, he said.

“Now we’ll start moving trees, transplanting trees, and all those things we do during the winter months,” Kuykendall said. “We’ll plant new little ones and transplant and then do cleanup of that. We have something to do all year long.”

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