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County extension agent answers pecan questions

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Eddy County Extension Agent Woods Houghton is sharing answers to commonly-asked questions he has received regarding the ongoing quarantine of pecan trees in Southeast New Mexico due to pecan weevil.

Q. Can I sell my pecans?

A: Yes, anywhere the pecan weevil currently is. So local accumulators can buy them, but you cannot take them in the four far-west Texas counties, including El Paso, by Texas Department of Agriculture Regulations or any counties that produce pecans west of Eddy and Chaves counties.

Q. Can I still eat or use my pecans?

A. Yes, if it has the pecan weevil in it, you will see it.

Q. The local pecan buyers want my ID; why?

A. The current emergency pecan weevil quarantine requires pecan buyers and accumulators to obtain specific information from individuals selling their pecans. The primary reason for this requirement is to help identify pecan weevil-infested areas. Eradication has three C’s, or principles: one, Contain — find where they are and keep them from spreading; two, Control — use integrated pest management to kill off the existing populations that are known; and three, Cleanup — find the few that may have survived but monitor to make sure they don’t come back. An indirect consequence of requesting identification is that it may help reduce pecan theft.

Q. Can I send pecans to my relatives?

A. Yes, you can send them out of the shell to anywhere in the US. If you want to send pecans in the shell, they can only go east or north to non-pecan-producing states like Idaho. In-shell pecans cannot go to Arizona, or California, or any county west of Eddy and Chaves, or the four far-west Texas counties to the south.

Q. How do I treat to prevent them in my yard tree?

A. The adult female weevil is a beetle-like insect that emerges from the ground in early August each year. She crawls or flies up into the tree and drills a hole through the shuck and into the nut, where she lays eggs. The grubs that hatch afterwards feed on the nut interior. Some escape through a hole they bore in the shell, while others remain inside. It’s impossible for a homeowner to spray insecticide over an entire tree in most cases, but there are some strategies that might help control the weevils.

First, pick up and destroy all damaged nuts each year. You can put them into to plastic bags and in the dumpster, or burn them if allowed by local ordinance. Do call the extension office or NMDA so we can work on that first C of eradication: Contain.

Second, apply in late July a foot-wide band of sticky material, like Tanglefoot, which is similar to the fly stick traps, around the trunk, six feet above ground. This will catch weevils that crawl up the trunk into the tree. To keep the material from staining the bark, wrap wide masking tape around the trunk before spreading it, if that is of concern.

Third, if you have not been included in a state-approved eradication program, homeowners can spray insecticide that contains carbaryl as high as you can reach in the tree beginning the first week of August and repeating every 10-14 days until shucks begin to open. Be sure and read the label of each product to ensure it is legal and used safely. Follow all label requirements for your protection.

The best thing you can do this time of year is pick up your pecans; don’t leave them on the ground.

Q. What will the local buyer do with my pecans?

A. They will clean and sort your pecans, then it depends on where they are shipping them for sale. If they are going into existing pecan weevil areas, they are super-sacked by size and grade, and shipped. If they are going to the South or West, they are sorted and sacked as above but placed in a sealed semi-trailer and shipped to a cold storage facility to be stored. Or they can cold treat in a certified facility before shipping. It may surprise you, but the largest buyer for U.S. pecans is China.

Q. What if I don’t follow the rules and take my pecans to some other location?

A. Buyers in non-weevil areas are also asking for ID, and if you are coming from an infested area, they will not buy your pecans. They could also call the NMDA, and your pecans may be subject to seizure. But more importantly, you may be responsible for spreading this pest to non-infested areas of a multi-million-dollar industry.

(EDTOR’S NOTE: Woods Houghton is the Eddy County agriculture extension agent. Contact him at 575-887-6595 or whoughto@nmsu.edu.)

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