Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Living off the Land
Tuesday, April 25, 2000
Melon growers deal with pests
By MARI MALDONADO
COYANOSA, Apr. 25, 2000 -- Recent wind storms have hardly been a problem
for Coyanosa farmers Alvaro, Tony and Armando Mandujano, who claim their
watermelon crops have suffered more damage at the hands -actually the paws
- of local wildlife.
Currently the most destructive creature has been rabbits, said Armando
Mandujano, the youngest of the three partners. He said the outlaying areas
of their 120-acre, watermelon field bear the damage caused by the large
Although young watermelon plants are not their favorite mainstay, Mandujano
said because of the drought, "They'll eat whatever they can find...and
they just work right down the line without skipping a plant."
Other pests include birds, which will eat the seed, "although they weren't
much of problem this year," said Armando.
"Mice and quail," also pose a minor problem, added Tony Mandujano.
"The quail just cut the small plants but don't eat it," Armando said.
When asked what the solution is to their problem, the two brothers answered,
"Looks like I'm gonna have to pull out my .22," said Tony. Armando added
that another way to control the wildlife comes with keeping the field clean
of debris from previous seasons. "We try to keep it clean," he said, adding
"we planted cotton here last year."
Armando said that the smaller pests don't bother the mature plants,
"once they've vined," But then javelinas and coyotes come into play.
With the wildlife problems at hand, the two brothers praise their recent
investment into a, "drip irrigation system."
The Mandujanos said the system consists of the main pump that carries
underground water into main tubes that run outside the length of the field
and feed water to tubing that runs about 12-inches underneath the ground
of each groove where the plants were planted about 16-inches apart.
Water is emitted from, "drip meters", that are spaced 24-inches apart,
along the groove-length tubing, Tony said. When split open the one-inch,
flexible tubing revels a tiny vent-like apparatus attached to the inner
wall just underneath a small opening in the tube, where the water is released.
Tony pointed out that dark, evenly spaced areas in the soil indicate
where a meter is located. Kicking some of the dirt clods and turning up
the soil, Armando pointed out the moisture that is vital to a successful
Tony said that one plus to the drip irrigation system is that, "we don't
lose much water to evaporation." Armando added that because the, "water
comes up through the meters," and is then penetrated evenly throughout
the soil, it never reaches the surface.
This system also helps control weeds, according Tony Mandujano. "Because
the moisture is at the bottom, the weed seed doesn't spread," as easily
as they would in above ground irrigation systems,” he said.
Armando said this is good where vegetable and fruit crops are concerned,
"because you can't use herbicides," as commonly as one would on a cotton
crop, for example.
A third positive factor about the watering system, said Armando, lies
in the fact that because the water is spread more uniformly, "you've got
the same size melons all over."
He added that calcium buildup within the water lines is controlled by
pumping suluric acid treatments through the water system. "We try to keep
the Ph at 6.5," Armando said.
The brothers, who agree that the task of installing the new system was
a hard one, say they feel it was well worth the trouble. They claimed that
they experimented with the new method of watering their crops last year
by installing it throughout only a few sections and have since expanded
it to include their entire watermelon crop.
"Watermelons take about 90 days," Armando said, as the brothers pointed
out a section of their crop with more mature plants.
"We planted these earlier on," than the rest of the sections, said Armando,
explaining that the earlier a crop is planted the higher the risk of freezing
and damage from unpredictable weather conditions, not to mention the wildlife.
Tony said the trio started breaking ground in January and are now seeing
the "fruits" of their labor. "We're pretty satisfied," said Armando.
The siblings ventured out on their own four years ago after helping
and learning from their father, Alvaro Mandujano, a 14-year-veteran-farmer.
Along with 140-acre watermelon crop, the brothers share their skills,
talent add knowledge to grow cantaloupe, cotton and hay, making their farming
duties a year-round responsibility.
"We still work together," said Tony of the brothers and their father,
who still group together to sell their crops at harvest time.
New method to lower water’s ph tested
By JON FULBRIGHT
PECOS, Apr. 25, 2000 -- Salt is a pretty common commodity in West Texas.
So is sulphur. But water is not.
Getting the salt out of what water there is in the area is one problem
area agriculture officials are looking at, but finding a cheap way to mix
sulphur with the high salt content water is the Texas A&M Agriculture
Experiement Station is looking at right now, as a way of offsetting the
high sodium levels of local wells in order to increase yields on area farmland.
The Experiment Station has begun a test project in which sulphur will
be heated and then added into the station’s water supply before being used
on some of its land west of Pecos, experiment station director Mike Murphy
Murphy said the acid generation unit is being given a test in Pecos,
but similar units already are in use on two golf courses in the Midland-Odessa
“Greentree (Country Club) has two in use on its golf course and the
Ratliff Ranch has one in use,” Murphy said.
He said the idea of mixing sulphur in with water is nothing new. “It’s
been used in the (Rio Grande) valley for years and years, but the price
of shipping it in got to be too much.”
However, in West Texas, “sulphur is a natural bi-product of oil and
gas wells, so it’s not very far to haul the sulhpur,” from a treatment
plant near Odessa back to the Pecos area.
Murphy said sulphur like the type that had been mined from the recently-closed
Freeport McMoRan mine northwest of Pecos could not be used because it was
not pure enough, and would stop up the vents in the acid generator that
allow the heated sulphur to mix with the water.
“It takes 99.5 percent raw sulphur and melts it down. The vapor changes
to sulfuric acid,” he said. The acid is then mixed with water and applied
to a test plot at the experiment station.
“We hope it lowers the ph of the soil enough so more nutrients are made
available,” Murphy said.
The lower the ph number, the more acidic the soil is. Area soils,
with their high sodium contest, also have very high ph numbers. “If you
change the ph from 7.0 to 6.8, that does a lot towards changing the nutrient
levels,” he said.
Heat from the acid generator creates a vacuum, which sucks water from
the ditch into the generator, where it is mixed with the sulphur vapor
and then returned to the ditch, Murphy explained. The mixture is at about
a 1:20 ratio, with 50 gallons of treated water for ever 1000 gallons of
“The ph in the ditch is 6.8. After it went through the acid generator
it came out at 2.8, which is fairly acidic,” he explained. “That water
is mixed with the other water in the ditch, and it dropped the ph level
from 6.8 to 5.8.”
Sweetwater Farming, Inc., or Utah owns the patent to the process. “They
brought it down from Utah,” Murphy said. “It’s the same size as the ones
they use as the golf course, and it puts out as much as 200 gallons a minute.”
He said under the system, it takes about 10 backs of sulphur to treat
about 40 acres of farmland.
“The whole reason to do this is to find a way to improve the (nutrient)
infiltration rate,” Murphy said, while adding a thorough test of the process
is not feasible at the experiment station right now, since the generator
is on loan from Sweetwater Farming.
“It needs to be done for two or three years in a row to see if we have
the same results, but I don’t think we’re going to be able to get the man
to let us use the unit three years in a row,” he said.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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