Improving Irrigation Water Use topic for conference March 7 in Manila

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Our region's supply of water for irrigation is critically important for crop production, and adopting practices that improve irrigation water use efficiency will help ensure our ability to irrigate in the future. Irrigation is often applied to supplement the water requirements of crops to ensure adequate yields and stable production.

In Mississippi County, and surrounding areas, over 95 percent of irrigation water is supplied from groundwater that is pumped from aquifers. As weather patterns change, the ability of our aquifers to recharge may become diminished. Additionally, more arable land is expected to be converted to irrigation in the near future. These increased demands place emphasis on judicial use of our natural resources.

According to the United Nations 2015 world population prospectus report, the world's population is projected to increase to over 9.7 billion people by 2050.

Without the ability to irrigate crops, agriculture will not be able to supply the food and fiber demands of the growing population. Public interest in the sustainability of our natural resources, as well as projected population growth, will require increased production efficiency in agriculture if our natural resources are to remain sustainable for future generations.

Prior to the time demands producers face during the production season, the off-season should be used to develop irrigation strategies that help increase the efficient use of groundwater. In an effort to introduce our stakeholders to research tested practices that have been shown to increase irrigation water use efficiency, County Extension Agents in Clay, Crittenden, Craighead, Greene, Mississippi, and Poinsett Counties have worked to develop an irrigation conference. The multi-county irrigation meeting is scheduled for March 7 at the Manila Airport Center. The agenda includes researchers, irrigation specialists, and extension agents from USDA-ARS, the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, and Mississippi State University. Speakers will provide information on Arkansas's comprehensive water plan, tools to help producers improve irrigation timing, surge irrigation, computer hole selection, improving irrigation pump efficiency, and soil moisture sensors.

Over the past 2-3 seasons, county extension agents have worked with producers to demonstrate several of the irrigation tools available. Surge irrigation, computer hole selection designs, and timing irrigation via evapotranspiration (E.T.) gauge readings have shown the potential to improve irrigation water use efficiency by as much as 20-25 percent. Adopting their use as part of a comprehensive irrigation plan could help producers reduce pumping costs, conserve irrigation water, and preserve yield potential.

With a minimal amount of hands-on training, producers have successfully implemented these practices and improved irrigation water use efficiency on their farms. Following the morning session of irrigation presentations, those interested in developing computerized hole selection designs for furrow irrigated fields are invited to participate in the afternoon session. After lunch, specialists will be available to provide hands-on training in the use of PipePlanner for producers interested in computer hole designs for their furrow irrigated fields.

For additional information on ways to improve irrigation water use efficiency, please contact your local County Extension Office. To pre-register for the irrigation meeting, please use the following link https://www.uaex.edu/counties/mississippi/ , or https://www.uaex.edu/counties/crittenden/ and click the "Register Now" tab.

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