SMR Farms in Bradenton, Fla., has a hefty irrigation bill, with more than 4,500 acres under irrigation, but the bill is kept in check by using wastewater from a local treatment plant. The operation was a pioneer in Manatee County in the use of reclaimed water for irrigation, originally bringing the water in to supply citrus trees.
Harold Worrell has the distinction of being the first producer to use subsurface drip irrigation systems around Altus, Okla. He installed them in 1995, building them underneath 1,800 acres of cotton and leaving 3,200 acres underneath sprinkler systems.
Shooting for achievable crop yields rather than bin busters lets the Grotegut family stretch declining groundwater in their family farming operation in Dawn in Deaf Smith County, Texas.
Peter Paquin eagerly thinks ahead about his cranberry bog business. And why not? A year ago, he grew 2.5 million pounds of berries at two locations and sold his crop for 80 cents a pound.
Russ Lester calls his innovative elevated irrigation an “upside-down sprinkler system.” The Solano County organic farmer has threaded plastic hoses through the branches of 215 acres of walnut trees, and found enough benefits that he wants to put hose up in the air throughout his whole farm.
A group of vegetable growers from different regions of Australia toured California’s Salinas Valley recently and saw how vegetable farmers did everything from irrigation to harvest. Some of their findings surprised them.
Examining the very narrow temperature range in which plants thrive, researchers have amassed years of knowledge and combined it with modern technology to ease decision-making for irrigators.
When the irrigation pumps shut down at the end of the 2004 season, the 15 employees of the Bell Rapids Irrigation District had no idea that the next season would have them removing much of the 130 miles of irrigation pipeline they had maintained for 37 years.
Water management is vital to farming the arid regions of western Nebraska. University of Nebraska researchers hope that the addition of a 1,280-acre West Central Water Resources Field Lab near Brule will help them find answers to the questions farmers and ranchers need to know.
Dozens of sensors and a crop-consulting firm keeps thousands of acres of corn properly irrigated each summer in north-central Indiana. Brian Kunce, Pro-Tech Partners, based at Leiters Ford, helps make sure irrigators understand sensor data.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln experts have developed a website, called “SoyWater,” that promises to make it easier for soybean growers to schedule irrigation during the growing season.
Advancing technology is making it easier than ever to monitor your center pivot status, but you don’t necessarily need the latest bells and whistles to eyeball some problems in your system early in the season.
Whether dealing with irrigated or dryland cotton, Chris Bubenik aims to use and stretch water in his arid Concho Valley region efficiently.
Growing cotton means a lot of tweaking this or that to adapt to a particular season.
Considering yearly fluctuations in energy prices, flexibility in fuel sources is a good thing for irrigators. Nebraska-based AmeriFuels Energy Solutions, one of the pioneers in marketing irrigation engines that run on ethanol, now has another option for irrigators — an engine that burns both ethanol and natural gas.
Regular stops at his pivots and subsurface drip system remain a routine for Don Blaschko of Gibbon, but his 2010 irrigation decisions were made watching a graph and the orange line on his laptop computer screen.
How close are Nebraska irrigators to the corn yield potential on their farm? In the three-county Tri-Basin Natural Resources District of south-central Nebraska, at least, the answer is pretty darn close.
For Melvin Kruse of Bow Valley, irrigation provides insurance that he will always have alfalfa hay to harvest. This spring, Kruse planted another field of new-seeding alfalfa under a center pivot.
High Plains’ producers and others will be required to limit the water they pump.
This growing season started with a wet, cool spring that delayed planting in some areas. The net result is that crops may mature in different areas of the state over a longer time than usual this fall.
When Roric Paulman came back to the farm south of Sutherland more than 30 years ago, he assembled a team to help him resurrect an operation that had just gone through bankruptcy and the sudden death of his father. “I was 27. I didn’t know enough about farming at the time, so I pulled together a team that included an attorney, accountant and bankers to see where I stood. I also sat down with our original landlords.”
In the worst stretch of drought in Texas history with extreme heat and winds, a Texas corn grower’s 2011 crop was saved by drip irrigation.
The idea that cotton plants are large water consumers has largely been relegated to a myth, but irrigated cotton still displays greater yield than dryland cotton — even with deficit irrigation, when it is done on time.
Nearly 20 years ago, a Nebraska state electrical inspector conducted a series of inspections of electrically driven center-pivot irrigation systems with electric pump motors. The findings at that time were shocking.
One of the more handy advancements in cellphone technology allows growers to monitor irrigation systems and soil moisture content with cellular networks, giving them the ability to make irrigation decisions without being in the field.
In 2010, J.J. Long joined the small but emerging variable-rate irrigation club to manage a pivot circle with “wildly varying soil types.” Half of the circle seldom reached his yield expectations. “It never seemed to get enough water,” he says.
A Nebraska Public Power District test of 261 irrigation systems provided further evidence of the need to improve irrigation pumping plant efficiencies, and also of the opportunities you have to save both money and water by making improvements.
What a difference a year made for Joel Bergman of Loomis. In 2010, with incentive payments from a water conservation program, Bergman was finally able to convert a gated-pipe-irrigated quarter section to a combination of center-pivot and subsurface drip systems.
The big picture of Nebraska’s water supply is missing as the state attempts to manage water conflicts and set regulatory policies. Instead, Nebraska needs to inventory its total water supply and identify where that water goes before determining the highest-priority consumptive uses.
With high grain prices, farmers need yield uniformity across their field to take full advantage of their input expenses, including irrigation. In Nebraska, pivots have become the norm, comprising around 82% of irrigation systems, compared to only 60% a decade ago.
The big cotton story of 2011 was the extended drought in Texas. The big story of 2012 may be how growers will come back from that drought.
Much of the U.S. may be entering something similar to what Texas suffered from October 2010 until spring 2012, and what South Carolina, Georgia and Florida suffered through most of the last year — extreme and exceptional drought.
Ed Lammers wants to preserve his land and be a good steward. The Cedar County farmer is now using variable-rate irrigation as another stewardship tool in accomplishing his conservation goals on his rolling farm ground with highly variable soil types.
Randy Uhrmacher is one of the early adopters of subsurface-drip irrigation in Nebraska, at least on a full quarter-section scale.
Ed Lammers of Hartington needed information before he could begin using variable-rate irrigation technology on his farm. “When I started irrigating in 2009, I began noticing that parts of the farm were producing better under irrigation,” Lammers says. “This made me realize the high variability of the soil types on my farm.”
Contrary to conventional wisdom, irrigated corn in Nebraska is highly efficient in the use of energy, water and fertilizer, according to University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientists whose research found that increased yields more than offset the energy cost of these inputs.
Irrigation Research Foundation Executive Director Charles Corey says the corn root studies at IRF have already encouraged Monsanto to begin researching how different root structures perform, and he hopes other companies follow suit.
Sitting forward at his desk in Tyner, N.C., Dan Ward, of the C.A. Perry & Son farm operation, leans on his elbows and uses his index finger and thumb to punch in a series of numbers on his cell phone.
Wheat planted under irrigation isn’t necessarily the easiest crop to grow. Over the past six years, Gene Chohon of O’Neill has pushed wheat yields under center pivot to nearly 120 bushels per acre, but last season he was disappointed when his wheat averaged in the mid-80-bushel-per-acre range.
When people in agriculture get on the leading edge of a new activity, apprehension is as apparent as a rainbow in the stream of center-pivot irrigation.
Some 32 years ago, Hubert Frerich was diversified with a few watermelons on the farm at Garden City, Texas. The local Texas Agricultural Extension Service office back then suggested he try some drip irrigation on melons. Hubert did. The rest was history.
From its meager start in the melon patch where Hubert and Annette Frerich tried drip irrigation at Garden City, Texas, the Eco-Drip Subsurface Drip Irrigation business expanded into several states and put down roots for cotton.
In Texas, water is gold.
High Plains producers are regularly and harshly reminded that efficiency of an irrigation system dictates crop watering capacity.
In semiarid farming regions where every drop of water counts, Texas AgriLife Research scientists say timing the application of available water is becoming more critical when it comes to irrigating cotton.
Preliminary results from a major study at the Irrigation Research Foundation near Yuma, Colo., have revealed that the shape, density and depth of corn roots are key to water and nutrient uptake.
It takes around 20 inches of moisture for soybeans to yield 75 bushels per acre. That’s a half-million gallons of water. Moisture comes from the soil and Mother Nature, and can be added with irrigation.
When most people hear the name “Cold Mountain,” their minds turn to images of the award-winning Civil War drama. They might want to consider Haywood County, too, and some of the best farmland in the western part of North Carolina. The pristine Pigeon River makes this region ideal for dedicated small farmers.