Water Management in Irrigated Pecan Orchards in the Southwestern United States

in HortTechnology
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  • 1 Professor, Texas A&M University, Agricultural Research and Extension Center, 1380 A&M Circle, El Paso, TX 79927
  • | 2 Associate professor and extension agricultural engineer, Texas Agricultural Extension Service, P. O. Box 1298, Ft. Stockton, TX 79735.
  • | 3 Professor, Department of Horticultural Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2133.

Irrigated production of pecans in the southwestern United States started with notoriously inefficient flood irrigation along river basins. Today, most surface-irrigated orchards are laser-leveled, and many orchards in upland areas are under sprinkler or drip irrigation. Technical and scientific knowledge for improving water management also has evolved from studying drought effects on tree performance to an improved understanding of water relations, salt effects, evapotranspiration processes, and the distribution of water and salts in irrigated fields. Yet, many growers still experience difficulties with water management and may benefit from maintaining the soil water suction above saturation but below 30 to 40 cb until shuck opening. The soil salinity should be kept below 2.5 dS·m−1, and irrigation water should be applied to essentially the entire root zone for optimum tree growth. Due to extreme soil variability existing in most irrigated fields of the southwestern region, these guidelines alone are not adequate. Soil profiles, root distributions, water quality, and irrigation methods may have to be examined to improve water management.