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NMSU's Pecanigator goes online

Help is just a click away for pecan growers trying to figure out the best time to irrigate their trees. The Pecanigator, a palm-sized device developed by New Mexico State University researchers that tells growers when to irrigate, is now available online.

NMSU Researcher Richard Heerema with the online Pecanigator, a tool to help pecan growers know when to water their trees. (NMSU Photo by Darren Phillips)

"Pecans are hugely important in the state and the region," said Richard Heerema, NMSU Extension pecan specialist. He said pecans account for more agricultural acreage than any other crop in the Mesilla Valley, and the number of pecan acres increases each year.

The original Pecanigator, distributed to Mesilla Valley growers last year, resembled a slide rule. Growers could simply line up the date they last watered with their soil texture to determine when they needed to irrigate again. The online version of the Pecanigator is available at http://nmclimate.nmsu.edu. Users simply need to click on the pecan irrigation-scheduling estimator. The online version provides identical information and keeps the process just as simple.

"Water stress, more than anything, will affect pecan yield and quality," Heerema said. "That's why a tool like this is so important."

"We are heading into a drought this year. We need to be conscious when it comes to our water use," said Deborah Bathke, NMSU assistant professor and assistant state climatologist. She helped with the online Pecanigator project.

The online Pecanigator provides data for the Mesilla Valley and will soon have information for the Pecos River Valley in Southeastern New Mexico.

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.

"We think this will benefit small-scale and medium-scale growers, which make up the largest percentage of growers in the Mesilla Valley," Heerema said. He also said to be most effective, the Pecanigator should be used in combination with soil-moisture monitoring equipment, and a good dose of common sense.

Bathke, along with Robert Francis, Merrill Bean and Jeff Kallestad provided programming, calculations and other assistance for the online Pecanigator and other agricultural climate tools available at http://nmclimate.nmsu.edu. The site was developed in association with the Southwest Climate Consortium and Climas, Climate Assessment for the Southwest.