Corn is a target crop for using stored water. In the 18 weeks of typical corn production, the plant uses more than half the total water requirement during weeks 7-12 than in all other weeks combined.

Likewise, soybeans use the bulk of the water it needs for crop production in weeks 7-12, though because soybeans are planted later, the time this crop needs water is significantly different than corn.

Wheat needs maximum water over a shorter period of time, but still bunches high water demand between weeks 6-10 in spring production.

In the U.S., row crop farmers have already taken significant steps toward better water usage. For example, Barnes says more than 70 percent of cotton farmers have turned to some type of reduced-tillage over the past decade. Reduced-tillage builds organic matter, which has a higher water holding capacity than conventionally-tilled soils, he says.

Long-term, off-season projects as simple as redesign of a farm fish pond or enclosure of drainage areas for use as water catchment can become pivotal management decisions in future years for Southeastern growers.

With new highly efficient water usage systems, like LEPA, these on-farm water catchment systems could provide enough water to improve yields and quality of crops during high water stress periods.

The low energy precision application (LEPA) irrigation concept was developed primarily to allow irrigators in arid and semi-arid areas to maximize the use of their total water resource and significantly increase irrigation efficiencies.

It was particularly targeted to those areas experiencing declines in water availability due to dropping water tables, dwindling surface supplies, or supply decline from other socio-economic reasons.

Utilizing modern technology, like GPS, to precisely administer water may be a critical issue in the future as growers in the Southeast face the near certain reality that water quantity and water quality issues will continue to grow in the future.

rroberson@farmpress.com