Irrigation method being used in county

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Ray Benson, Mississippi County Extension Service, Chair, and Jason Osborn, Mississippi county Extension Service agent, check the ET gauge to see if it is time to irrigate.

The ET (Evapotranspiration) gauge helps growers take the guess work out of when to irrigate.

The ET gauge helps producers know when the crop needs irrigation.

Ray Benson, Mississippi County Extension Service Chair, and Jason Osborn, county agent, are working with growers in the county with different methods to get the best, most economical results from their irrigation practices.

Benson said they have six to eight ET gauges in fields throughout the county and most farmers who are using it seem to like the ET gauge. "The ET gage shows the amount of water lost due to evaporation from the soil and the amount of water lost through transpiration from the plants," Benson said.

Many producers are familiar with computer programs which help schedule irrigation. Computer irrigation programs often require the user to enter daily high and low temperatures. The computer program uses the temperature data to calculate an estimate of evapotranspiration. According to Benson, the ET gage measures evapotranspiration without requiring the producer to enter any temperature data.

The ET gauge is placed in the field and is equipped with a water level "sight tube" which shows the amount of water lost through evapotranspiration each day.

The gauge lets the growers know when it is time to irrigate by showing them the moisture deficit of the soil. When the soil reaches a certain deficit, it is time to irrigate. The ET gages measures inches per day lost through evapotranspiration. According to Benson and Osborn, most of the crops grown in the county should be irrigated once the soil reaches a deficit of 1.5 -- 2.0 inches. Benson said "the ET gage shows a cumulative total deficit and should help producers time irrigation more efficiently."

"The ET gauge is another tool we have to be more efficient with irrigation," Benson said. "Most farmers irrigate based on a day of the week but the ET gauge should allow them to irrigate based on crop needs". Producers may be able to alter their irrigation schedule based on the weather.

Osborn said "we know crops use more water on hot sunny days than on cooler cloudy days. The ET gage should allow producers to take advantage of times when evapotranspiration is low and extend the time between irrigations."

Farmers can save in water and fuel using the gauge. Being more efficient with irrigation adds up to a lower overall cost. Many growers put the ET gauge near the rain gauge so they can check them often.

Osborn said the gauge should be good for a five mile radius.

"We have had positive results in irrigation with the ET gauge," Osborn said.

For more information on using ET gages, please contact the Extension Office at (870)762-2075.

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