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Pecan Growers Conference Set for March 6-8 in Las Cruces

LAS CRUCES - Improving yields in New Mexico's multi-million dollar pecan industry will be the focus of the Western Pecan Growers Association Conference March 6-8 at the Hilton Las Cruces.

Boosting pecan yields will be the focus of the Western Pecan Growers Association Conference March 6-8 at the Hilton Las Cruces. (NMSU Agricultural Communications photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

"We're having a good year, but we can always do better," said John White, Doņa Ana County horticulture agent with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "One of our main goals this year is to help producers reduce costs and increase efficiency."

Fifteen inches of rain supplemented reduced irrigation allotments this season, he said. Meanwhile, both pecan quality and market conditions favored New Mexico nuts.

Doņa Ana County's 25,000 acres of pecan trees typically produce about 80 percent of the state's crop. New Mexico growers produce up to $50 million worth of pecans in high-yielding years, and account for about 50 percent of Southwest production and 11 percent of the U.S. crop.

Sponsored by NMSU Extension and the growers association, the three-day program will feature presentations from Extension specialists, researchers and industry leaders from across the nation. Registration is $90 per family or sole proprietor prior to Feb. 18. After that, it's $100.

More than 700 pecan growers, processors and scientists are expected to attend the annual conference. This year's program kicks off with a welcome from NMSU President Michael

Martin, followed by updates on the pecan weevil, biological pesticides and the black-margined
yellow aphid. Other talks will cover pecan crop insurance, global climate change and orchard management.

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 target the U.S. Department of Agriculture's pecan breeding program, leaf nutrition and calculating water use with remote sensing. Other presentations will address pecan promotion, marketing and quality. Texas A&M agricultural economist Jose Pena will review trends in production and consumption. Translation from English to Spanish will be provided.

The Western Pecan Growers Association Show, a nut sample competition, will take place will March 6. Western and Wichita varieties, along with improved varieties, known hybrids, seedlings and natives will be judged, with a $100 prize awarded for best overall sample.

A food fantasy contest, a competition for pecan-based goodies such as pies, cakes and candies, will also be held March 6. Awards include a prize for best traditional pecan pie. Entries must be received by noon at the Hilton.

For more information about the conference, or if you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, contact White in advance at (505) 525-6649 or e-mail whjohn@nmsu.edu.