Tiny bug posing threat to New Mexico's $180M pecan industry

(Susan Montoya Bryan | The Associated Press) In this March 20, 2013 photo, a tractor prepares a pecan orchard near Rincon, N.M., for the spring irrigation season. Farmers in southern New Mexico's Hatch and Mesilla valleys are worried about dwindling water supplies as the state enters its third straight year of drought.

Carlsbad, N.M. • A tiny bug is posing a threat to one of New Mexico's biggest cash crops.

An investigation by the Carlsbad Current-Argus and Roswell Daily Record found an invasive bug known as the pecan weevil could derail New Mexico's $180 million pecan industry.

In late 2016, and January 2017, the weevil was found in pecan orchards in multiple counties in southeast New Mexico. It was confirmed in Eddy, Lea, Chaves and Curry counties.

Quarantines were enacted to prevent its spread in the following months, and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture is looking to make them permanent.

New Mexico pecan producers worry the quarantine — which restricts pecan shipments to areas without an infestation — could prevent them from trading to the west where the industry is most lucrative.