Ojinaga, 20,000 people located across Rio Grande from Presidio, Texas. ,
one-third of the population has been lost to a declining economy and soil salinity problems that make it difficult to grow crops on the area's 20,000 agricultural acres. Trouble handling sewage compounds the region's woes.
Scientists with NMSU's Agricultural Experiment Station = "We're going to try to combine wood production for paper pulp with sewage sludge use, and rehabilitation of salinized agricultural land," says John Mexal, project coordinator and tree physiologist with the Experiment Station.
The project, which still requires funding, includes planting fast- growing eucalyptus trees and irrigating with a combination of sewage effluent and water from the Rio Conchos.
"Eucalyptus trees are good for rehabilitating the land because they absorb excess salts. The wood produced would feed a pulp mill, creating jobs," Mexal says.
Planting eucalyptus on about one-twelfth of the agricultural land would handle the community's sludge. But, the pulp mill could use wood produced on as much as 100 percent of Ojinaga's agricultural land.
This project may someday serve as a training center, because it will incorporate technologies that could be easily transferred to other small, struggling rural communities, Mexal says.