The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Improving Lives, Communities and the Economy

Protecting Pecan Trees

Photo Courtesy:  Joshua Sherman

Pecan Farmers and pecan groves in Southern Arizona *could* be facing a serious pest problem…

The ‘pecan weevil’ is causing problems in other parts of the United States.  While experts have found no trace of the pest here in Arizona, yet, farmers are keeping an eye out to make sure their orchards are not invaded.

We talked with Joshua Sherman, Assistant Agent in Commercial Horticulture, about the pecan weevil, and how Cooperative Extension is helping farmers, and helping get the word out about this destructive insect.

What is happening with the pecan weevil across the country?

"While there are other destructive insects, such as hickory shuckworm and pecan nut casebearer, the pecan weevil is probably of most considerable concern to Arizona. In the eastern pecan growing industry, and Texas, there have been areas where the pecan weevil grew to populations to be considered infestations. When weevil populations surpass the threshold of economic injury, to the point of infestation, it can cause as much as 60-70% total losses in pecan yield. The pecan weevil is a significant pest to manage in all eastern states to Arizona, now including New Mexico. Although New Mexico is doing their part and following protocol to trap, quarantine, and treat areas where the pecan weevil has been identified, it is imperative that Arizona residents and community are informed of the severity of the issue and how they can help prevent the spread of this pest in Arizona."

 

What are some measures that can be taken?  What are farmers doing to keep this pest away?

"The most critical now is to inform and educate the Arizona communities far and wide! Especially communities close to the New Mexico border. The Arizona Department of Agriculture and the Arizona Pecan Growers Association and members are diligent in taking steps to prevent any pecan material from entering into Arizona from any states east of here. In fact, the Arizona Department of Agriculture prohibits any pecan material to be brought into the state east of Arizona’s border. If there is pecan material a grower wants to acquire from any eastern states for propagation or planting, there are steps to be taken with the ADA to request permission, plus costly measure to ensure pests are treated and exterminated from the material before it is allowed into the state.

Specifically, the pecan material is defined as: container or potted pecan trees from nurseries and private growers, bare-root pecan trees from nurseries and private growers, whole in-the-shell pecan nuts or seeds, and of course any pecan firewood."

 

What are you doing as an Assistant Agent, in Commercial Horticulture, to help farmers with this current situation?

"As an educator, my main priority is to inform the community of this threat. There are a lot of retirees taking up extra small acreage on their homesteads that do not know of the ADA’s ban on pecan material entering from the eastern states. It is my goal to make sure the small acreage, backyard growers, are well-informed that they must not bring any pecan trees and pecan material from New Mexico or eastward, this includes any seeds to plant.  I am actually visiting growers, and sharing knowledge face-to-face.  If the pecan weevil were to cross our border, it will be by an uneducated individual who just wants to plant a few trees, or came across a good deal on pecan wood for heating their home in the winter. If the pecan weevil were to make a presence in Arizona, it is imperative to take immediate action before it becomes an infestation. There is currently a “Quarantined Pest Action Plan” in place by the University of Arizona and Arizona Department of Agriculture. If the the weevil were to become an infestation, the losses of pecan yield would be significantly impacted, as the majority of pecan production comes from the south and eastern Arizona."

 

How does what you’re doing fulfill the mission of Cooperative Extension?

"One of the most important aspects of the Cooperative Extension mission, slightly revised here, is to “engage the public through education to improve the communities, environments, and economies in Arizona and beyond.” I feel in the next few months, by having an aggressive campaign to disseminate this knowledge, both radio and newspaper, and of course social media, I will be fulfilling this mission. The Arizona pecan industry supports the Arizona economy into the millions of dollars every year, it is my job to sustain and help this economy grow. Therefore, I must get this information into the hands, ears, and eyes of all communities. If there are any neighbors, family, friends, who know of anyone bringing pecan material into Arizona without the proper permission or assistance from the ADA, please let us know. Only then can we investigate, monitor, and get a threat under control if it is present."

For more information, click here to reach out to Joshua Sherman.