Enhancing Water Efficiency with Drip Irrigation Systems

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Original article by Capital Journal (Joel Ebert)

As the 2014 Oahe Farm and Ranch Show nears, Milt Morris and Tom Tveit laid out a new irrigation system they hope will improve local farming on Thursday.

That’s when the two men watched as a crew of workers installed the tape for a drip irrigation system in a three acre plot next to the Oahe Speedway.

Using a tractor owned by Tveit, a local farm manager and crop consultant who has worked closely with Morris over the years, workers laid strips of drip tape, which is made of polyethylene, 30 inches apart from each other.

The tape will be permanently buried 16 inches deep, allowing it to be at or below the roots of the corn Morris said will be planted on the plot.

The idea, Tviet said, is that the drip irrigation system will be much more efficient in watering crops than other methods.

“In the past we’ve used a variety of sprinkler systems,” Tviet said. “It could replace a lot of gravity irrigation systems.”

Tviet said everything farmers do today centers around precision. “This is a precise way to put water at the root of plants,” he said.

High labor and high water-use irrigation systems, Tviet said, often operate at only 65 percent efficiency. He and Morris believe the newly installed drip irrigation system should be nearly 100 percent efficient.

“It is the most efficient use of water,” Morris said. He hopes the irrigation system will attract the attention of attendees of the two-day show.

“I’m doing this to promote drip irrigation and trying to make it available to people,” he said.

Although drip irrigation is being used in several regions of the country, it is relatively new to the region, Morris said. “This is the first time my company has done a drip system.”

He said the new system has the potential to produce greater yields than traditional irrigation systems. Morris expects to have his first yields available in the fall.

While the small plot of land is Morris’s first drip irrigation system, he already has plans to install it in another 400 acres of land in the near future.

For now, as the farm and ranch show nears, Morris and Tviet laid out the first part of an irrigation system they hope will gain traction in South Dakota.

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