Sustainable Agriculture Introduces The Pecanigator

Part of making agriculture a more sustainable practice is reconsidering conventional methodologies and reinvesting in them to make them function better. As fresh, clean water sources become more expensive (effectively cost and demand). While there can be many arguments that agriculture of any kind, by its very nature is in- sustainable, the economy of agriculture is too great to dismiss the field altogether. Instead, we must focus on ways to make the existing system as lean, clean and green as possible.

In steps the Pecanigator. The Peganigator is a tool used by pecan farmers to gauge the amount of water necessary for proper growth of the popular nut trees. The program has been piloted in the state of New Mexico, where for decades water has been irrigated from the Rio Grand. Because pecan trees use a lot of water, but it's hard to judge just when they need it and when they don't.

In many cases, it is estimated that many large pecan farmers over- irrigate and some smaller farmers under- irrigate; if the Pecanigator can help guide the farmers to make more efficient choices, we'll be well on our way to a more sustainable method of pecan farming.

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The pecanigator is a pecan irrigation tool; the creators just shortened the name to end up with Pecanigator. The Pecanigator is a slide rule-type device. It shows four different soil types and the irrigation intervals for each of these soil types as they change throughout the season. As the USDA video mentions, there will be some adjustment time needed, as both the slide-rule and the online version of the Pecanigator uses historical precipitation data combined with soil type.

According to New Mexico State University's News Center, “Water stress, more than anything, will affect pecan yield and quality,”Richard Heerema, NMSU Extension pecan specialist, said. “That’s why a tool like this is so important.” Deborah Bathke, NMSU professor and assistant state climatologist adds, “We are heading into a drought this year. We need to be conscious when it comes to our water use,” She helped with the online Pecanigator project. Heerema said while pecans consume more water than most other crops, they are also much more valuable than other crops and contribute a large amount of money to the state’s economy. Any method that improves and maximizes the efficiency of one of our most precious resources, like water, by proxy improves the agricultural sustainability of the project.
Photo credit: Video still from USDA video