“We know farmers have invested a lot in this technology,” says Ortiz, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System specialist and assistant professor in Auburn University Department of Agronomy and Soils.

“While it’s important that we invest in this technology, the other important critical issue is how we use it.”

Profitability is the critical concern for most farmers, Ortiz says. But as farmers gear up to feed an estimated 9 billion people by mid-century, another all-consuming concern will be optimizing water use, she says.

“Experience will teach us over the next few decades that we will have to be careful — that we will have to use water resources with a lot of extra care — even in Alabama, where water has traditionally been taken for granted.

“Right now, we might have access to groundwater and surface water for irrigation, but it’s an open question whether we will have enough years down the road.”

“There are two take-home messages concerning irrigation,” she says.  “Through irrigation, we not only increase yields and profitability, but we also learn how not to deplete our resources in the process of achieving those goals.”

Ortiz says the extreme variations in weather — severe droughts and temperature spikes, for example — that have occurred in recent years and that will likely grow worse in the future only underscore the importance of mastering irrigation techniques.

“We’ve got to understand that irrigation will be critical not just for growing plants to maturity but also for helping these plants through crises, whether these happen to be prolonged drought or seriously elevated temperatures,” she says.

The Irrigation Scheduling Workshop was designed with all these concerns in mind, Ortiz says.

While the event is free, registration is required, and seating already is limited.

To register, e-mail hollokm@auburn.edu.