Pecan farmers in New Mexico to ensure weevils can impact the harvest

Weevil larvae in a pile of pecans. New Mexico is currently trying to prevent the spread of the critters that infested the state of the eastern provinces.

(New Mexico Department of Agriculture)

Many Americans will look at a pecan pie as part of their Christmas party, but also farmers who grow the nut in New Mexico are fearful that a small mistake can affect the harvest.

It is the Ministry of Agriculture is currently trying to protect the $215 million per year from the industry, by the prevention of the spread of small critters that eat pecans as they grow, the so-called weevils.

“The pecan weevil is probably considered one of the most devastating, or one of the most damaging to pecans,” said Philip Arnold, President of the New Mexico Pecan growers association.

The Ministry of Agriculture, quarantine, pecan nuts originate from eastern New Mexico counties of Curry, Eddy, Chaves and Lea, until May 20, 2018.

It is especially dangerous for pecan farmers, because it is the middle of their annual harvest. The spread of the beetles can have crippling financial consequences. The farmers are mainly trying to prevent weevils from the distribution in Dona Ana County, in which Arnold estimates will produce 90 to 100 million pounds of pecans this year.

“The Mesilla Valley is one of the largest production areas on the continent, and that the matter in the world,” said Arnold. “To have that kind of vermin in here could be devastating for the industry.”

The larval beetles are a small, white, waxy worm-like creature. The adults have a snout and six legs. They use their snouts to engage in the pecans during the growing season, and eating the developing nut.

Pecans with weevils can be fumigated. But according to Arnold, the disinfection or insecticides do not always kill each weevil, and the survivors can start spreading again.

The proven method for getting rid of the beetles is to freeze. Pecans with beetles in cold storage at zero degrees. As long as the pecans remain at zero degrees for 96 hours, all the beetles will be dead.

“It’s the kind of bug you can try and control and eradication if you do it right,” said Arnold.

Arnold said the beetles do not travel very far if they have a source of food. Weevils, divided as infected, pecans, soil or equipment is supplied with beetles inside.

“I’m not going to say that it’s not something with a slam dunk that we are able to get rid of it as it comes,” said Arnold.

Arnold said the Ministry of Agriculture and the Pecan growers are closely monitoring for weevils since the 1990s. They follow a set of quarantine system, as the beetles are to be found in the local orchards. His main concern is to inform people infected pecans in Dona Ana County from Texas and other areas, in the hope to get a better price.

“A lot of people do not that you do anything bad, they just don’t know any better,” said Arnold.

Ray Bogan is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in El Paso, Texas. Follow him on twitter: @RayBogan


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