Cutting-Edge Farmer Uses Drip Irrigation and Other Techniques to Maximize Water Efficiency

Don Cameron, a member of California’s State Board of Food and Agriculture and general manager of Terranova Ranch, is on the cutting edge of irrigation. His wine grape vineyards stretch for 1,300 acres, so maximizing water is a top priority. Cameron has used drip irrigation on these vineyards since 1982, a time when drip was still uncommon.

Making the switch to micro-irrigation has saved Terranova Ranch 15-20 percent on water costs. When Cameron took over as general manager, he recalls, “I was told we couldn’t grow tomatoes. I was told the ground was too light.” Processing tomatoes now occupy 2,300 acres at Terranova, due in large part to Cameron’s implementation of drip systems. He contends, “We eliminate evaporation from the soil surface and provide uniform distribution of water and reduce fertilizer usage along with producing a 28 percent higher yield. We no longer have excess water accumulation at the end of fields as we did when we furrow irrigated.”

But drip irrigation isn’t the only practice that makes Cameron a pioneer in water use efficiency. Continue reading

10 Ways Farmers are Saving Water

California DroughtAs California faces a historic drought, many farmers are relying on groundwater reserves to carry them through the dry season. Pumping groundwater is currently unregulated in California (that could soon change), and drawing on reserves now could cause shortages in the future. Sustainability-minded farmers are looking ahead and using an arsenal of ways to save water. Here are just a few: Continue reading

Free Agricultural Workshop to Highlight Drip Irrigation on Onions & Watermelons

South Texas farmers, crop consultants, technicians and anybody involved in crop irrigation are invited to a workshop to help brainstorm ideas on how to generate incentives for water conservation, according to experts at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco.

The free program, Rio Grande Valley Agricultural Conservation Workshop, will be held from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday at the center, located at 2415 E. U.S. Highway 83 in Weslaco.

Among things discussed will be a test plot of drip irrigation on onions and watermelons in which water use was cut in half and yields were double. According to Dr. Juan Anciso, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service fruit and vegetable specialist at the Weslaco center, “using a [drip irrigation] system can pay off for growers.” Continue reading

The Pros and Cons of Drip Irrigation Systems

Drip Tape IrrigationDrip Irrigation has typically been used in high-value fruit, nut, and vegetable crops. Recently, it has become popular in field crop applications, including corn/soybean rotations and alfalfa, cotton, and processing tomatoes. USDA’s recent Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey reported 3.76 million acres in the U.S. are under drip. This acreage is expected to be significantly higher in the 2013 report, which will be released this fall.

Drip is gaining in popularity because the systems are flexible and can accommodate diverse cropping and application demands. Continue reading

Subsurface Drip Irrigation Isn’t Rocket Science – But It Requires Management

subsurface drip irrigationWith drought gripping much of the Great Plains and western states, and with groundwater reserves declining and water regulations increasing, growers and their CCAs are finding ways to get more crop per drop with precision irrigation.

Starting in 1993, CCA Bill Cox, agricultural consultant at CoxCo Ag Services in Las Cruces, NM, has helped his clients convert thousands of acres of center-pivot irrigation to the more water-efficient subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) systems, in which buried drip lines below the soil surface deliver water and nutrients directly to the plant’s root zone with minimal losses to surface evaporation or deep percolation.

With SDI, Cox’s growers are able to sharply reduce waste compared with other irrigation systems like furrow and center-pivot irrigation. That enables his growers to put more water to use for crop production, he says. But don’t confuse water use efficiency with water conservation, Cox stresses. The goal isn’t necessarily to use less water, but to get more production with the water that you have. Continue reading

K-State to Celebrate 25 Years of Subsurface Drip Irrigation Research with Field Day

Through drought and wind, hail and rain, for 25 years Kansas State University researchers have studied subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) technology for field crop production. To mark the anniversary, K-State’s Northwest Research-Extension Center at Colby will host a special anniversary SDI Technology Field Day on Wednesday, August 6 at 105 Experiment Farm Road in Colby.

“This is where growers can come to have their questions answered,” said Freddie Lamm, research irrigation engineer with K-State Research and Extension. “We’ve built in plenty of opportunities for this to be an interactive day.” Continue reading

How to use Micro-Sprinklers for Integrated Pest Management

Micro-sprinkler on strawberries #Micro-sprinklers have long been used to provide climate control and irrigate fruit, nut and cover crops. Now, micro-sprinklers can be used as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) plan in row crops, as well. By placing a grid of micro-sprinklers above the crop and operating it a few times a week, dust is washed off the leaves and humidity is increased – suppressing harmful pests and encouraging beneficial insects. For example, mites and spider mites favor hot, dusty environments, whereas beneficial predatory insects, such as persimilis, thrive best where humidity levels are between 60 to 90 percent. By applying a light application of water to the crop several times a week, dust, mites and webbing are washed off while the resulting increased humidity encourages beneficial predator species. Continue reading

The Toro Company Celebrates 100th Anniversary

Toro Centennial BalloonsYesterday – July 10, 2014 – The Toro Company celebrated its 100th anniversary as more than 2,000 employees, retirees, channel and business partners, and other valued guests gathered at the company’s headquarters in Bloomington, Minnesota. Joining Michael J. Hoffman, Toro’s chairman and chief executive officer, as he remarked on the company’s rich history and the individuals and innovations that helped shape the company’s success was Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, who presented the official proclamation declaring “Toro Day” in the State of Minnesota, and Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead.

“As we celebrate our first 100 years, it was truly gratifying to be surrounded by many of those who played such a significant role in the company’s success,” said Hoffman. “We are honored to have such talented employees around the world and individuals who have served the company throughout our history, along with great channel and business partners, who work every day to serve our customers and help advance our efforts in the industry. And, I especially want to thank Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead for joining our centennial celebration and honoring the people of Toro.” Continue reading