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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Mixed News for Nut Growers: Pecan Yields Down, Quality High

LAS CRUCES -- New Mexico's pecan harvest will be earlier, smaller and higher quality this year, a New Mexico State University horticulturist said.

"We are going to harvest probably slightly more than 50 percent of last year's crop, which was a record crop of 45 million pounds," said Esteban Herrera with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. Pecan yields usually drop the year following a large crop but quality improves, he said.

Nationally, pecan production is down from 1995 but there is an ample supply of nuts still in storage, which is expected to keep prices down. Most years, New Mexico ranks third in total pecan production behind Georgia and Texas.

However, the weather should help New Mexico's growers harvest and get their pecans to market earlier this year. The state's growers typically are among the last to harvest in the nation.

"Usually we wait until the first frost knocks the leaves off and then the moisture in the pecans also drops, which makes them easier to harvest, clean and process," Herrera said. "Last year, we had our first frost around mid-December, so we had leaves on the trees for a long time. Some growers started harvesting even with the leaves on the trees."

Though pecans won't be as plentiful this year, consumers should have their pick of premium nuts if the harvest is early.

"I hope consumers will get their money's worth because of the quality," Herrera said.