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Pecan Growers Conference Slated for March 7-9 in Las Cruces

LAS CRUCES - New irrigation technologies and water management strategies to cope with New Mexico's prolonged drought will be in the spotlight at the Western Pecan Growers Association Conference March 7-9 at the Hilton Las Cruces.

"The shortage of water that we're facing this season calls for more and better knowledge of how to manage water in our pecan orchards," said Esteban Herrera, conference coordinator and emeritus horticulturist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "Those trees are going to need less water in April when the temperatures are relatively low, as opposed to July when it's above 100 degrees and foliage and nuts are growing."

Sponsored by NMSU Extension and the growers association, the three-day program will feature presentations from Extension specialists, researchers and industry leaders. Registration for the meeting is $70 per family or sole proprietor prior to Feb. 20. After that, it's $80.

"More than 700 pecan growers, processors and scientists from across the Southwest are expected to attend the annual conference," said John White, Doņa Ana County Extension horticulture agent.

During the program, nationally recognized water experts will discuss irrigation pump efficiency, estimating water needs according to tree canopy and costs of pressurized irrigation systems. Other water-related topics include measuring soil moisture, remote sensing for irrigation scheduling, conversion from flood to pressurized systems and salinity management.

The program kicks off with a welcome from associate dean Paul Gutierrez, new head of NMSU's Extension Service, followed by updates on pecan weevil, insect control and weed management. The session will be highlighted by an update on pecan research from John Mexal, an NMSU horticulturist.

Pecan growers can also take part in contests, educational workshops and one of the nation's leading pecan equipment shows, which includes supplier and manufacturer booths featuring harvesting machinery, equipment, fertilizers and irrigation equipment.

Educational programs will highlight health benefits of eating pecans, alternative markets for pecans in Mexico and fertilizer management. Other talks will address decomposition of wood chips, soil nutrient analysis and mineral nutrition. Mechanical thinning will also be reviewed. Instant translation from English to Spanish is provided.

In addition, the International Pecan Show, a nut sample competition, will take place during the conference. 'Western' and 'Wichita' varieties, improved varieties, known hybrid seedlings and natives will be judged, with a $100 prize awarded for best overall sample. International pecan show entries must be received by Feb. 6.

A food fantasy contest, a competition for pecan-based goodies such as pies, cakes and candies, will be held Sunday, March 7. Awards include a $250 prize for best traditional pecan pie. Entries must be received by noon at the Hilton. For more information on the pecan food fantasy contest, contact Karin Davidson at (505) 526-3949 or Gayla Weaver at (505) 525-6649.

For more information or if you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate in the meeting, please contact Herrera at (505) 646-5280 or herrera@nmsu.edu before the event.