What is in this article?:
- Eric Seidenberger High Cotton winner for Southwest region
- Drip offers three distinct advantages
- Same fertility as drip acreage
- Gives back to industry
• Eric Seidenberger started small, leasing land where he could, and for the first few crops using some of his father’s tractors and equipment.
• Today, Eric Seidenberger is farming 2,950 acres — 2,150 in cotton, the rest in wheat, and also grazes Angus cattle on 3,000 acres of pasture. He irrigates 1,225 acres, 1,000 with subsurface drip, has a 125-acre pivot, and furrow waters 100 acres. He plans to put in another 100 acres of drip for the 2011 season. Drip irrigation, reduced tillage, terracing and grassed waterways are critical parts of his production and conservation programs.
Drip offers three distinct advantages
He installed his first drip irrigation in 2003, a 45-acre block. He says drip offers three distinct advantages:
“I get high yields from my drip irrigated cotton,” he says, noting that yield consistency with drip is a huge advantage. His yield goal for dryland production is one bale per acre; he hopes to get 2.5 bales per acre with pivot and furrow irrigation; and aims for 3 to 4 bales on drip fields. He’s made 2,000 pounds on some fields and qualified for the FiberMax one-ton club four years in a row. He’s on the bubble for 2010.
“I average 95 percent efficiency with drip, compared to furrow water, which has about 50 percent efficiency,” he says.
Water use efficiency is a huge advantage with subsurface drip, he says. “Water is always an issue for West Texas farmers. We’re supplying supplemental water and our water table is dropping some every year. We were getting to the point with furrow irrigation that we couldn’t get water all the way to the end of the rows.”
After he put in the first 45-acre system, he added 450 more acres the following year. “We still were not seeing the labor benefit with that little bit — we still needed labor for the furrow systems.”
The main advantage of drip, Seidenberger says, is labor savings. “We were moving pipe all day long for furrow irrigation. We’re also using less tillage on drip irrigated fields; we aren’t cultivating four or five times in the summer, as we do with furrow irrigation. We spray Roundup early and cultivate once.”
With almost all his cotton now drip irrigated, the labor toll is much less. “We get everything done — until harvest — with just two full-time laborers.”
Multiple cultivations was once a labor-intensive routine, and less tillage also saves labor, Seidenberger says. “We would cultivatein furrowsfor the water and cultivate six or seven times during the summer. With drip, we’re down to one cultivation. On furrow irrigation, we still cultivate three or four times.”
The next 100 acres of drip will go on pivot irrigated fields, Seidenberger says. “We’ll maintain some furrow-irrigation in bottom land that’s prone to wash with heavy rains. Some acreage we have to leave out of drip because of potential erosion. We’ve addedterraces and grassed waterways.”
Bottom land and rolling fields are prone to erosion, “So, we need waterways and terraces on 90 percent of our bottom land. We’ve grassed most of our waterways.”
One pivot field has a 19-foot drop from one end to the other, and “We have to maintain erosion control in that field. Before we built waterways, we got a six-inch rain one night that washed out 90 percent of our beds. The field was totally flat. I knew I needed waterways; they’ve made a ton of difference.”
Terraces direct water to one central waterway and into a nearby creek. “Conservation just makes good sense,” he says. “We have a lot of rolling land in the Garden City area and it needs erosion control.”
Seidenberger has adopted other technology to improve efficiency. Transgenic seed play an important role in his production. He plants Phytogen 375 WRF and 440W and FiberMax 9160, 9170 and 1740, all BGII varieties.
“I also plant a test plot for Delta and Pine Land. I’ve done that for 15 years. And I switch varieties every year or two — varieties change fast as they develop new technology.”
Technology also helps maintain an efficient fertility program, Seidenberger says. “Fertility is especially important in drip irrigation. We knife in 200 pounds of 10-34-0-5 to get phosphorus in before planting.”
On dryland, moisture may dictate fertility. “If we have moisture we try to knife in a high nitrogen blend — that’s all it will get.”