Irrigation Presentations 2023

Apr 05, 2022 by Renee McMahill in
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Pivot Irrigation Strategies For The Mid-South

Presented by:  Dr. Dave Spencer, Assistant Professor, Water Resources Research Institute, Mississippi State University

Pivot irrigators in the Mid-South lack regionally specific information to optimize use of overhead systems. This research was conducted to determine whether applying lower irrigation rates more frequently or applying greater irrigation rates less frequently is more effective in meeting crop demand. Lower irrigation rates were insufficient to replenish soil moisture and often could not keep pace with crop demand. These results are extrapolated to field situations to give examples on holistic irrigation management.

How Our Trials With Irrigation Ponds Solved Moisture Needs, Keeping Cropping System Sustainable

Presented by:  Annie Dee, Alabama Farmer, Dee River Ranch

Beginning in 2011, Dee River Ranch put in a four-sided pond, like a catfish pond, to use for irrigation purposes on droughty ground. Later, they added another pond covering 115 surface acres which is 50 foot deep at its deepest. “We built it to put 7 inches of water on our irrigated acres,” says Annie Dee. “It’s really helped us be sustainable. Previously we were having a good crop until about May, then the crop would dry up for lack of water.”The Dee farm raises 4,000 acres of row crops, with a combination of corn and soybeans, depending on market conditions. Dee River Ranch was owned by 11 siblings, including Annie and is presently owned by Annie and her brother, Mike. The diversified family farm also includes a cattle operation and a timber operation. Annie and her youngest brother, Mike Dee, actually manage the place, assisted also by Annie’s twin sons, Seth and Jesse. Annie holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Industries from Clemson University in Clemson, S.C.

Irrigation Management For Corn Production In The Southeast

Presented by:  Dr. Wesley M. Porter, Associate Professor, Extension Precision Ag & Irrigation Specialist, University of Georgia

Due to water being so critical in corn production, low water holding capacity of soils, sporadic drought, non-irrigated acreage is low in Georgia. Typically, sensors and scheduling aids produce some of the highest yields, and Water Use Efficiency. Checkbook methods are typically the most used methods by growers. Adoption of more advanced irrigation scheduling systems is low due to cost, complexity, and uncertainty in expected economic benefit. Growers tend of over-irrigate corn as an insurance policy to prevent yield loss, however, it should be noted that even if yield is not reduced, can be reduced by over-irrigating the crop needlessly.

Using Soil Moisture Sensors To Increase On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency In Georgia

Presented by:  Joshua K. McCormick, Georgia Farmer, McCormick Farms

On McCormick Farms in Sylvania, GA we grow cotton and peanut in a conventional rotation and focus on conservation methods and take them seriously. One of the technologies that we utilize on the farm are WaterMark soil water tension sensors. We have accomplished this by placing soil moisture sensors at a spacing of every 40 acres and using them to predict when irrigation should be initiated. Similar to most situations in Georgia, multiple center pivot irrigation systems share single wells, and moisture sensors have been proven effective to aiding us in being logistic and on time with our irrigation applications.

Characterizing Drought Stress While Optimizing Irrigation Amount For Cotton Cultivars

Presented by:  Dr. Avat Shekoofa, Crop Physiologist-Water Stress & Irrigation, Associate Professor, University of Tennessee

Producers have few options to mitigate drought stress on rainfed acres; must cope with it by either adopting cultural practices which improve water saving or by selecting drought-tolerant cultivars. Our 5-yr research at the West Tennessee Research and Education Center in Jackson indicated that applying semi-irrigation [flower to peak flower (0.5”/wk), and peak flower to open boll (1.0”/wk) when -75 to -80 (kPa) range is considered as the onset of stress] can increase the lint yield by 33% compared to rainfed in dry years. In relatively wet years, the semi-irrigated out-yielded the rainfed treatments by8.5%. Our cultivars’ responses to rainfed conditions indicated that cultivars with higher water saving rates had significantly higher lint yield (29to 31%) compared to others. Selecting suitable cotton cultivars for rainfed conditions also choosing an appropriate irrigation strategy can improve cotton yield.

Eliminating The Guesswork Of Irrigation In The Mid-South

Presented by:  Andrew Kwasigroh, Agronomist, Irrigation Consultant, ABK Agriculture

The ABK Agriculture goal is to assist growers with using precision irrigation technology that will help them to “eliminate the guesswork of irrigation” on their farms. Our main focus is helping growers understand the technology of soil moisture sensors and how to implement that into their daily irrigation water management and scheduling. I assist growers in navigating and taking advantage of the various programs that NRCS has to offer, focusing on Irrigation Water Management. Our mission is to help dedicated land stewards obtain access and maximum benefit from USDA conservation programs which result in more conservation of water and land.

Informing Future Irrigation Strategies Using Drought Status, Hydrological Conditions And Historical Rainfall Patterns

Presented by:  Dr. Stacia L. Davis Conger, Assistant Professor, State Irrigation Specialist, LSU AgCenter

Louisiana is prone to naturally high rainfall variability and extreme weather conditions. The objective of this project was to develop more informed irrigation strategies using statistical regionalization of historical rainfall patterns, current drought status, and current hydrological conditions of water sources used for irrigation purposes. Results from the regionalization model showed that there are two distinct regions, representing North and South Louisiana, with differences occurring only during the irrigation months of June, July, and August. Combined with drought status and hydrological conditions, a webtool that notifies irrigators of recommended schedule adjustments was developed.

How To Use Technology To Gain Efficiency In Irrigation

Presented by:  Nathan Holmes, Missouri Farmer

Lifelong farming experience in the mid-South has shown that irrigation takes more time and effort than is available in any given crop season. Though product costs may remain mostly stable, variable costs associated with time and effort can quickly overtake profitability of that crop season. A possible solution for minimizing these costs is to retrofit pumps with automated pump control (APC) technology. During this talk, Holmes will provide an overview of APC and how he has implemented this technology on his own farm. He will then explore alternative farm scenarios to establish a range of expected cost savings as well as water savings estimates attributed to using APC.
Nathan Holmes holds a B.S. in Agribusiness from Southeast Missouri State University and was raised on a Missouri farm where he began growing some crops as early as age 15. In addition to the family farm operation, he owns and operates Bold Cypress, LLC through which he has designed, developed, and now sells an automated pump control product called PumpTrakr.

Mississippi Delta Fields Benefit From Drain Tile – And Just Might Benefit From Subsurface Irrigation

Presented by:  Darla Huff, Director of Agriculture, Advanced Drainage Systems, Inc.

Agriculture market fluctuations across farm inputs continue to cloud what decisions can guarantee improved profitability while farmers are challenged to do more with less. Now, more than ever, drainage water management could take the guesswork out of increasing long-term ROI in the Delta: it improves crop yields, raises land value, lowers break-even price, reduces necessary water use, and decreases nitrate loss –all while serving as a conservation practice. What if it irrigates, too?

My Experiences Using The Advanced Drainage System For The Past Year

Presented by:  Matt Miles, Arkansas Farmer

After one year of using the Advanced Drainage System, Miles gives a “thumbs up” on the drainage piece. Installation of the irrigation part of the system is still underway. He will discuss some situations he dealt with the past year, showing slides of some of the installation progress.
Matt, his wife, Sherrie Kay, along with their son and daughter in law, Layne and Ryane Miles, farm over 10,000 acres of the Mississippi delta located in the southeast corner of Arkansas in Ashley, Desha, Drew and Chicot County. They began farming in 1989 and are fourth generation farmers. Matt and Sherrie have a combined 70 years of experience in agriculture. They began their operation together in 1989, using their savings to put a down payment on an old tractor, with the help of both their fathers loaning them equipment and advice, but mostly being extremely blessed by God. They have over 35 dedicated employees that has become a “farmily.” They harvested 108.6 bushels soybeans in their first 10-bushel plot in 2013, which broke the state record. Their current record is 122 bushels harvested in 2022.Together with son, Layne, they have reached 100-plus bushel soybeans 13more times in 8 years. Sherrie is the first woman, and Layne is the youngest farmer to break 100 bushels in the state soybean challenge. Matt and Layne are also multiple state winners in the National Corn Growers Association Yield Contest. Matt is a Board Member of the Agricultural Council of Arkansas, he was appointed to the Arkansas State Plant Board in 2021 and was recently selected to serve on the Rabo Agri Finance Advisory Board. Matt speaks at many destinations around the country to farmers on different agricultural topics and is now in his third season on “The Podfather”, a reality/educational TV show, that airs on RFD TV showcasing what he does as a producer. Both Matt and Sherrie hold bachelor’s degrees from University of Arkansas at Monticello, Matt in Ag Business and Sherrie in business management. Matt spends any spare time he has testing new theories and technologies to help teach others and further the advancement of production agriculture.

Irrigation And Fertigating Technology For Row Rice, Going For Climate Smart 300 BPA

Presented by:  Dr. Chris Henry, Associate Professor & Water Management Engineer, University of Arkansas

A novel system has been developed to improve the furrow irrigated rice production system. A yield gap of 16 BPA currently exists between FIR and flooded rice production systems. A pit-less pump system is being used to fertigate UAN and liquified urea in an effort to close the yield gap, reduce greenhouse gas emission, reduce water use, and reduce fertilizer use. Cover crops successfully improved the yield of FIR when strict notill was used. Significantly higher yields were achieved in 2022 compared to every 3-day irrigations (1024 BPA penalty), suggesting that water availability and delivery to FIR may be the main component of the yield penalty. The highest yield (192 BPA) was a result of cover crops, notill and daily fertigation using the pitless pump system. Daily fertigation of nitrogen delivered by the pitless system shows promise in reducing greenhouse emissions and providing a mechanism to minimize nitrogen cost and easily addressing nutrient deficiencies midseason.

Sensors Help Achieve Most Crop Per Drop

Presented by:  Chad Render, Arkansas Farmer

After several years of using his own observation as a means of determining a plant’s stress, Render began using moisture sensors, and he learned he had been overwatering. Following the sensor’s direction, he has found the extra water he was adding didn’t provide a better yield. Now with the sensors, he’s using less water and maintaining the same yields. Render was raised on the family farm in Craighead County. He received his bachelor’s degree in business from Arkansas State University and moved to Jefferson County in 1999 to begin farming on his own. He operates a 6,300-acre farm, raising rice, corn, soybean, wheat and black oats. “I’m happy to be an Arkansas farmer,” he says. Render is the first and only farmer in Arkansas to win 1st place in every crop division (corn, soybeans, and rice) of the Arkansas Most Crop per Drop Irrigation Contest.

On-Farm Irrigation Water Management Automation Evaluation

Presented by:  Dr. Drew Gholson, Assistant Professor/Extension Irrigation Specialist, Delta Research & Extension Center

Water levels in the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer continue to drop in the Mississippi Delta while irrigation acreage continues to increase. Adoption of irrigation conservation practices or Best Management Practices (BMPs) is imperative to help sustain our groundwater supplies. The Row-crop Irrigation Science Extension and Research (RISER) is an on-farm program that demonstrates to growers how irrigation water management (IWM) practices reduce irrigation water use up to 40% while improving profitability by $40/acre. Starting in 2020, the RISER program began identifying and evaluating innovative sensor and automation technologies that can assist producers with improving their on-farm irrigation management strategies and scheduling.


Sentek Soil Moisture Sensors Take Guesswork Out Of Irrigation

Presented by:  Andrew Lewis, Mississippi Consultant, High Yield Ag Solutions

Lewis will describe the benefits of using the Sentek Soil Moisture Sensors to keep track of the crop’s moisture needs. He has five years’ experience with these volume metric sensors that are placed in the field after planting and removed before harvest. The sensors alert one when to turn irrigation on to keep the moisture levels constant. He works with High Yield Ag Solutions, a precision technology irrigation company. The company helps farmers from the Midwest to the East coast make more money through irrigation technology. Andrew holds a master’s degree in Agribusiness Management from Mississippi State University. He has been helping farmers in the Midsouth make irrigation decisions with volumetric soil moisture sensors for 8 years.

Saving Water By Using Cover Crops And No-Till In Cotton

Presented by:  Carson Roberts, PhD. Candidate, Mississippi State University

Reducing irrigation frequency and quantity can save time, money, and water. Cover crops with different tillage regimes were researched for their potential ability to reduce the need for supplemental irrigation water. Findings show soil moisture was higher with cover crops and no-till. Low soil moisture in conventionally treated cotton resulted in more irrigation events and greater water use. Lint yield, water use efficiency, and soil water relations during the 2021 and 2022 growing seasons will be discussed.


Using Cover Crops, No-Till And Soil Moisture Probes To Increase Water Retention For Irrigated And Non-Irrigated Crops

Presented by:  Sledge Taylor, Mississippi Farmer

Taylor has been farming 50 years and has used many methods to improve soil health while raising crops. He began no-tilling about 30 years ago on some of his thinner soils, then expanded the no-till to his better soils, later trying no-till on the irrigated soils. Taylor began irrigation in 1988 and continues to expand his irrigated acres. About 65% of the crops he grows are non-irrigated, so he uses cover crops and no-till to help add organic matter and moisture-holding capacity to his soils, helping offset the lack of irrigation. After experimenting with cover crops over the years, he began using that method extensively the last three years. He will discuss all he has learned from each effort and how it works on irrigated land.

Taylor holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Mississippi State University in Agricultural Engineering Technology and Business. He grew up helping his father farm, and presently farms some of the land his father worked. He farms with two of his sons and raises 3,600 acres of cotton, 700 acres of corn and 150 acres of soybeans.

Comparing Levels Of Rice Irrigation Automation In NE Arkansas

Presented by:  Dr. Joseph Massey, Research Agronomist, USDA-ARS

At least three issues warrant interest in rice irrigation automation: increasing farm size, chronic labor shortages, and groundwater depletion. The first two can negatively impact a producer’s ability to refine irrigation practices at scales necessary to address regional water issues. Moreover, a growing number of opportunities to participate in corporate- and/or government-sponsored sustainability programs feature alternate wetting-and-drying flood management. Such efforts would benefit from the refined irrigation control and digital documentation offered by automation technologies. Field trials on three NE Arkansas farms compared different levels of automation to their respective manual controls in terms of irrigation savings and yield. Measurements of time to install/remove sensors and observations of automation reliability were also made.  Results from a related modeling effort suggest that early cascade rice irrigation shutoff (ECIS) can save water on par with multiple-inlet rice irrigation (MIRI). A companion poster describing ECIS is being presented.


Carrying On Tradition Of Rice Farming Through Weed Control, Water Management. The Keys To Sustainable Agriculture

Presented by:  Scott Whitaker, Arkansas Farmer, Trinity Farms

Whitaker will present the methods used on the Whitaker farm to reduce water usage, such as zero-grade rice fields, automated irrigation wells along with water sensors in the field; he will also discuss the reduction of greenhouse gases through practices such as alternate wetting and drying, along with reduced or no-till methods for preparing fields for the following year, while also speaking about the importance of timely herbicide applications to reduce trips across a field. A sixth-generation Southeast Arkansas farmer, Scott David Whitaker is a 2021 graduate from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Plant and Soil Science with a minor in Sustainability. During his time in Jonesboro, he was employed by Lance Ramthun for two years, scouting rice, beans, and corn throughout northeast Arkansas. He was also employed one year by Dr. Michele Reba and the USDA, assisting with collecting and testing water samples throughout Arkansas. “I am proud to be back in Southeast Arkansas on my family’s farm, working on many sustainable efforts. My primary role is rice consulting on 8,000 acres +/-of zero-grade continuous rice. Created through a collaboration between RiceTec, and Whitaker Grain, SmartRice® is the first third-party verified sustainable rice product grown using more sustainable methods to reduce agricultural resources and provide more rice to meet the growing worldwide appetite. SmartRice® answers consumers’ call for more sustainable products. The Whitaker family is a multi-generation farming operation in South Arkansas, raising rice, cotton, soybeans, corn.