Arrowhead Farms of Crystal City, Texas produces an assortment of pecans,
including Cheyenne, Choctaw, and Pawnee varieties.
Akram Mohammad purchased the 719-acre Zavala County orchard with 10,000 pecan
trees in 2005. When he purchased the property, flood irrigation methods were
used to water the trees. Mohammad felt like there had to be a more efficient way
to water his crop.
He contacted the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service office (NRCS) in
Zavala County and visited with District Conservationist District Conservationist
J.M. Villarreal. After a farm visit and technical assistance from Villarreal,
Mohammad decided an under-ground micro-irrigation system would be a more
efficient way to water his trees.
Through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Initiative Program (EQIP), Mohammad was
recently awarded financial assistance to install a 146-acre underground
micro-irrigation system for 4,380 trees.
According to Mr. Mohammad, only one pecan grower other than himself is operating
in this area. He sees micro-irrigation as the best way to grow in a drought
In 2011 Texas experienced it’s worst single-year drought in history. At one
point, the Nueces (pecan in Spanish) River that is adjacent to Arrowhead Farms,
had only 2 percent of its normal annual flow. Mohammad was only allowed to pump
for four days earlier in the year. The mainstay water came from deep wells that
tapped into an aquifer more than 400 feet underground.
“USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) was essential to my business and trees
surviving the recent exceptional drought,” Mohammad says. “The trees were
stress-free thanks to underground micro-irrigation. This is essential to the
future growth of Texas agriculture and good for America.”
Villarreal says, “Crystal City was a boomtown, once known for its spinach and
pecan crops. It still has great soil for pecan growers along the rivers. We are
glad to see Mr. Mohammad still able to produce pecans on this land, and be able
to do it with less water.”
According to Villarreal, the increased irrigation efficiency should extend the
orchard’s productive life.
Labor costs are dramatically less during the growing season, because where Mr.
Mohammad still has conventional flood irrigation, it takes a team of people and
heavy equipment to assemble 40’ by 13 “ metal pipes and build earthen
containment berms to contain flood water in graded orchards. This method takes
about 4 days to setup and the same to break it down, and days to water each
Micro-irrigation is started with a flip of a switch.
Villarreal says, “Flood irrigation does not provide equal watering to all the
trees. It has to be monitored, looking for when to stop, for pools; and ready to
take quick action to trench a drain when needed. Then there is always some
run-off (more than naturally occurring) that enters the Nueces River affecting
the riparian zones, wildlife and down stream bodies of water.”
When Mohammad walks through his rows of trees, he doesn’t have to make his way
through weeds. Because through the year the top 10” of soil remained dry with
hardly any weed growth, due to the underground irrigation network of 12,000 feet
of pipe and 25,000 feet of tube that slowly drips waters down to the tree roots
He estimates that he has cut his water demand in half, with the high efficiency
Another benefit is the greatly reduced need for anti-weed spray. Mohammad
normally uses four applications each year for flood irrigated orchards.
Micro-irrigated orchards only required one weed application per year and only on
limited areas between the rows of trees providing lower cost and less labor.
This is particularly helpful during harvest time when equipment and workers,
work around the base of the trees.
During a typical harvest season, Mohammad employs up to 25 people to harvest and
operate his onsite processing facility where loads of pecans are separated from
debris, washed, sorted and bagged in quantities from 5 pound bags to 1,500 pound
This year’s harvest was still challenged with prolonged hot temperatures and dry
air, yet yielded 700 lbs./acre of Grade 1 pecans. He is considering a second
shake of the trees to get the nuts that would not let go weeks earlier.
“Natural Resources and Conservation Service is the most important organization
in the United States,” says Mohammad. Without them I would have been finished.”
Talking with Mohammad near his D9 Caterpillar bulldozer, he says, “I like the
analogy that says of you give a man a fish he will eat for a day, teach him to
fish and he will eat for a lifetime. USDA teaches me to be a better fisherman
EQIP is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to
agricultural producers through contracts up to a maximum term of ten years in
length. These contracts provide financial assistance to help plan and implement
conservation practices that address natural resource concerns and for
opportunities to improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related resources
on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland. In addition, a
purpose of EQIP is to help producers meet Federal, State, Tribal and local
Farmer Akram Mohammad can walk through this
pecan orchard at his Arrowhead Farms in Crystal City, TX,
knowing he survived the exceptional 2011 drought thanks to an
underground micro irrigated system that was installed with
financial assistance from the NRCS’ Environmental Quality
Arrowhead Farms owner Mr. Akram Mohammad (left)
talks with Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS)
District Conservationist J.M. Villarreal (right) about the
pressure control valves used at the pecan orchards at Arrowhead
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural
Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) District
Conservationist J.M. Villarreal (left) and Arrowhead Farms owner
Akram Mohammad show off the Grade 1 pecans that were grown this
year using micro irrigation drip watering system on his farm in
Crystal City, Texas.
Five and 50 pound bags of pecans produced at
Arrowhead Farms of Crystal City, TX
Water distribution pipes for micro irrigation
have been trenched and lie well protected from the environment
and heavy equipment at Arrowhead Farms of Crystal City, TX, on
Monday, March 1, 2010. Only flow control and pressure regulating
valves are above ground in the orchard area. Tubes with water
emitters will radiate out from the pipes and run, 10 inches
underground, along rows of 4,380 pecan trees on 146 acres.
Jesus Gomez uses keen eyes and fast hands to
sort out any pecans that are less than perfect from the last
load of the 2011 season's harvest at Arrowhead Farms.