The Use of Two Mesilla Valley, NM Agricultural Byproducts to Create a Needed Organic Material Soil Amendment

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $14,750.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:


  • Nuts: pecans


  • Soil Management: organic matter, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    Soil organic material (SOM) is very low (0.7-1.4%) in my Chihuahua Desert farm. For this reason, I sought an effective and efficient carbon source to compost with dairy manure from the nearby Mesilla Valley, New Mexico. The Valley is rich in dairies, pecans, chili and cotton. Pecan shells (C:N 143, measured 2008) appeared to be a reasonable carbon source, which might gradually be broken down, slowly releasing its carbon content and forming a slowly decomposing compost. Following pilot studies in 2008, a composted mixture of manure and pecan shells (v:v 9:1) were applied along with control amendments in four groups: untreated, shells alone, manure alone and compost. Seventy nonbearing pistachio trees (cultivar Kerman grafted onto UCB-1 rootstock) were in each group. Each group received identical irrigation, fertilization and pesticide application.

    Nine months after application to the trees, we analyzed soil nutrients. Soil results included: (1) modestly increased SOM and CEC, (2) reduced pH in both the manure and compost groups, (3) reduced sodium content in the compost group compared to the manure group, (4) increased iron and manganese content in the shell group (perhaps because of binding by shell lignin and polyphenols), and (5) shells alone or composted had reduced total nitrates compared to untreated or manure alone.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Improve low SOM content in the soil of desert farms, such as my own.

    2. Gain experience and local producer recognition in large scale agricultural composting.

    3. Conduct a systematic process to find an effective and efficient carbon source in the nearby Mesilla Valley, NM for future composting.

    4. Measure the effects of manure:pecan shell composting on pistachio tree growth and nutrition.

    5. Modify compost composition in future studies and Western SARE grant proposals.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.