This is not your father's chemigation system. "We've seen tremendous improvements in chemigation technology over the past few years," says Texas Extension agricultural engineer Leon New.

New discussed some of the advantages of applying pesticides through an irrigation system at a Texas Agricultural Irrigation Association seminar in Amarillo.

He says advantages include:

It's usually the most economical method.

Farmers can make application on windy days.

Applications are more timely than with aerial or ground sprays.

Application techniques and equipment are greatly improved. Injection equipment is better than it used to be.

Farmers may use less chemical.

The process, if used correctly, is environmentally sound.

About the only negatives with chemigation, New says, are the initial costs of equipment and the need for responsible applicators.

The latter would be the case with any form of pesticide spray system, however.

New says chemigation systems must include adequate environment and user safeguards. "Backflow prevention is essential," he says. "Farmers should consider installing a spring-loaded control instead of a flapper-type."

He says injection line check valves are also essential to keep the system from overflowing the chemical tank.

"Farmers want to add these safety devices even more than the EPA does," he says. "Farmers are the real environmentalists and they don't want to spoil their water or soil."

He says farmers should select insecticides with low water insolubility and that are oil soluble and labeled for chemigation. He also recommends systems with interchangeable heads to allow use on both high and low-profile crops.

"Corn farmers will want to place the nozzles low to take care of corn borers. Also, low spray heads are essential for mite control in corn. At 30 inches high, we get less control. We have to get the spray down where the mites are.

"And we have to have good pressure to assure adequate control. When farmers spray into a corn canopy, for instance, they have to penetrate a lot of foliage," he says.

New says essential safety devices include: check valves, air relief valve, low-pressure cut-off on the pivot, low-pressure drain, injection hose and an anti-backflow device.

"We can use chemigation efficiently," New says. "Pumps cost only about $3500."

THE TEXAS Department of Agriculture will hold two public hearings on Monday, Jan. 8 to review the guidelines for organic cotton in active boll weevil eradication zones. The scheduled hearings were included in the rules adopted in June 2000.

The rules cover indemnification eligibility and the method for calculating any compensation for organic growers who may need to destroy crops because of infestation in an active eradication zone. TDA developed rules to maintain the effectiveness of the boll weevil eradication program as well as to protect the integrity of TDA's organic certification standards and the crops marketed under the program.

In the hearings, TDA will take comments on any changes that may need to be made in the regulations for the 2001 growing season.

The hearings will be Monday Jan. 8, 2001:

11 a.m. at the TAMU Agricultural Research and Extension Center 1102 E. FM 1294, Lubbock.

3 p.m. at the Dawson County Community Center 910 S. Houston, Lamesa.

TDA will take comments for 10 days beginning Jan 8. Those who wish can write TDA at PO Box 12847, Austin, Texas 78711 or fax to 512-463-1104.

For more information, call John McFerrin, producer relations specialist at 512-463-7593.