Free Agricultural Workshop to Highlight Drip Irrigation on Onions & Watermelons

Original article by Valley Morning Star (Rod Santa Ana)

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.

“Our water reservoirs have not been at full capacity since January 2011,” said Dr. Juan Enciso, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research irrigation engineer at Weslaco and a program organizer.

“As of Aug. 4, Amistad Lake was at 39 percent of U.S. capacity and Falcon was at only 30 percent,” he said. “So it’s important to not only continue conserving as much water as possible, but to come up with ideas on how to encourage further savings.”

An example of one such incentive, Enciso said, could be to reward growers who use more efficient irrigation systems with larger water allocations the following season.

“There are all kinds of scenarios like that that could help us all conserve, but we need to hear from growers and other experts and exchange ideas on incentives and how to make them viable,” Enciso said.

Other topics to be discussed include new water conservation strategies, the weather forecast for the upcoming growing season and a panel discussion by irrigation district managers and growers on possible incentives.

Dr. Juan Anciso, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service fruit and vegetable specialist at the Weslaco center, said July rains have helped, but the agricultural industry is still in crisis.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “Water problems just won’t go away, so we need to keep looking at cost-effective methods of water conservation.”

One, he said, could be drip irrigation.

“Drip irrigation is nothing new,” Anciso said. “But we’re starting to see that more vegetable crops can benefit from such as system.”

Anciso said that in a test plot of drip irrigation on onions and watermelons, water use was decreased while yields increased.

“This won’t be the rule, but in our test we used half the amount of water on onions, and yields were twice what they normally are. We also saw yield increases in a watermelon test plot that had water savings of at least half. This is one way that using such as system can pay off for growers.”

Both Enciso and Anciso said the onion and watermelon demonstration plots would be discussed at the Aug. 20 workshop.

Other speakers and topics include:

  • Erasmo Yarrito Jr., Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Harlingen, The current water situation in the Rio Grande.
  • Barry Goldsmith, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Brownsville, Weather update and prediction for the coming season.
  • Joe Barrera, Rio Grande Regional Water Authority, Harlingen, The Rio Grande Authority and emerging funding issues.
  • Enciso, Irrigation water conservation, tools for irrigation management and watermelon experiment results.
  • Dr. Mir Seyedbagheri, University of Idaho Extension, Elmore County, Humic acids: Their role in moisture management.
  • Panel discussion on irrigation districts and on-farm water conservation: Incentives for water conservation, and irrigation districts’ ideas for water conservation. Panelists will include Wayne Halbert, Harlingen Irrigation District; Troy Allen, Delta Lake Irrigation District, Monte Alto; Joe Hinojosa, Santa Cruz Irrigation District; Dale Murden, Rio Farms, Inc., Monte Alto; and area growers.
  • Dr. Luis Ribera, AgriLife Extension agricultural economist, Weslaco, Water economics.

The workshop will conclude with irrigation water demonstrations.

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