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Why farmers irrigate in the rain and police officers like donut shops

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“It was raining, and he had the irrigation running in the field. Why?” That’s what an urban-leaning friend of mine asked me recently, referring to what he felt was an appalling misuse of water resources by a farmer somewhere locally.

“It was raining, and he had the irrigation running in the field. Why?” That’s what an urban-leaning friend of mine asked me recently, referring to what he felt was an appalling misuse of water resources by a farmer somewhere locally.

The friend, who is a police officer, knows what I do for a living and asked the question in part to highlight what he felt was an irresponsible farming practice and in part, to his credit, to really inquire as to why this or how this could happen.

“Maybe there is a good reason, but I really don’t see why he’d have to waste water when rain is already coming down,” my good man said.

The answers to why the irrigation was running while it rained in the field can be many. And I didn’t care to carry on this conversation with my pavement-pounding pal, but I didn’t want a teachable moment to pass. God bless ’im.

I asked him a few questions:

“What was the soil moisture level in the field?”

“Was the pivot - I assume you saw a center pivot - running all sprinklers or just a few? How much had it rained in the last five days in that field?”

“Was it a corn field and was the system pumping nitrogen, which is called fertigation? Had the corn reached tassel?”

“Was it cotton and was the cotton squaring yet?”

My friend looked at me a bit surprised with a quirky little smile. “I don’t know,” he said.

It costs money to farm, big money. And if you see a farmer doing almost anything in a field, it’s costing money. Very few farmers do things in a field for “kicks and giggles.”

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