Irrigation’s role in agriculture cannot be overstated | Ag News


The western High Plains depends on the expansive multi-state underground reservoir generally known as the Ogallala Aquifer to develop crops wanted to feed the world.

Finding methods to stretch the water useful resource in the Ogallala—and different underground aquifers that dot the High Plains area—depends upon a sophisticated system. Most notably it’s the particular person irrigator who determines stretch a finite useful resource.

Those who work carefully with growers say stretching the useful resource requires fixed studying and adapting to vary.

Jonathan Aguilar, an Extension specialist for water sources at Kansas State University’s Southwest Research Extension Center, Garden City, has spent many hours researching water. He stated there was a time when the decline of the Ogallala Aquifer was so pronounced that certainly one of his colleagues, who had a 40-year profession, had as soon as quipped that if he listened to all of the critics who predicted the untimely finish of irrigation, he would have been out of a job a few years in the past.

Aguilar stated the important thing has been the flexibility for the business to adapt. When irrigation was first began on the High Plains, water was utilized with flood or floor software. Most of the floor irrigation methods had been solely about 30% to 60% environment friendly. Since then middle pivots and sprinkler irrigation techniques pushed the effectivity as much as 85%.

Also, totally different state authorities insurance policies have made most growers conscientious about stretching water provides, Aguilar stated. Over time, expertise has been a vital software to assist growers to handle their wells.

Today, precision ag and subsurface irrigation techniques are the newest applied sciences in pushing effectivity near what he hopes is a objective of practically 100% irrigation effectivity.

Aguilar stated precision methods can enhance scheduling.

“We still have rainfall,” he stated. “There is no reason to irrigate when the rain is pouring. We don’t want to put water on top of water. If we have no runoff or losses we can maximize the efficiency.”

In the western High Plains, irrigation will proceed to be distinguished, he stated, due to the business it serves. The area is crammed with massive livestock feedlots and dairy operations that want forage and feed.

The concept is to assist prolong and preserve as a lot of the aquifer as attainable as a result of irrigation helps profitability for the area and agriculture drives the financial system, Aguilar stated. Growers in southwest Kansas additionally need to share water for business and concrete makes use of.

The latest announcement of the Hilmar Cheese Company plant that can be constructed in Dodge City, Kansas, will increase dairy operations and that can add extra worth to the area and can improve the necessity for feed to assist dairies that can be offering the milk for the plant.

Producers and researchers will proceed to deal with practices which might be worthwhile, which can imply some shifts in crop practices.

“Irrigation will still be here but we need to be as good of managers as possible,” Aguilar stated.

Forty years in the past growers had been restricted to what crops they may develop and right now there are extra choices. Improved varieties, administration alternatives—each in-season and low season—will help growers with their selections.

Growers have additionally adopted strip-till and no-till practices. For some growers even a effectively at 150 gallons a minute can present a possibility to irrigate a crop.

“It all goes back to economics,” he stated. “Can the farmer make money at this reduced well capacity?” Studies by Ok-State Research and Extension have proven that an inch of water on the vital stage might double corn yield in comparison with dryland.

Growers may also have a look at crop rotation not solely to preserve water however as a software for weed suppression. Producers could be in a position to combine livestock grazing as a technique to make their operation be extra worthwhile.

As irrigation will get extra refined and exact, growers ought to have a look at methods to enhance the efficiency of their pivots.

“If you don’t need to irrigate you are actually saving energy costs,” Aguilar stated. “You need to be on the top of your schedule. One thing we should look at is minimizing use of irrigation water by capitalizing on the rain and holding off as long as possible.”

While Mother Nature is unpredictable, having the ability to pinpoint when rain is in the forecast and realizing how a lot rain fell on the sector will help the irrigator shut down the system, which saves power and water.

From a upkeep standpoint Aguilar has discovered about 50% of irrigation techniques want changes that would assist enhance their effectivity. Growers want to take a look at changes like gear ratios on the pumping system, water strain and likewise the motor itself.

Upgrading sprinkler heads and listening to pivot telemetry can considerably improve effectivity, he stated.

He has additionally been impressed with firms equivalent to Dragon-Line, Ulysses, Kansas, which permits the grower to actually apply water proper onto the crop. There are different firms that provide comparable techniques with identical ideas and growers ought to discover them.

The techniques do have studying curves however can be effectively well worth the administration time.

Aguilar stated one piece of recommendation to irrigators is to speculate in water saving measures as rapidly as they’ll. “Don’t wait until your well drops to 150 gallons a minute. Right now, it may be hard to justify the investment in the short run but over the long term it does work out.”

The finish recreation begins firstly with a holistic strategy.

“Irrigation engineers are not alone in looking at ways to improve system efficiency and increase the value of water. It also includes management of crop varieties and management of weeds. There are many aspects that have to come together to make irrigators be more efficient. With irrigation technology we can get to 98% efficiency, but we are hoping for more.”

Even fertilizer administration applications must be addressed fairly than simply relying on growing irrigation alone to spice up yield, he stated. “It all depends on the farmer and how he operates the system and how he integrates it all will make the difference.”