What is in this article?:
- Mitch Lazenby investing in irrigation for farmâ€™s future
- Realizes the need
- Coming this spring
• One of the ways Mitch Lazenby is fighting back against the elements is through undertaking an irrigation project aimed at converting under-utilized land into irrigated cropland.
• Mitch Lazenby acknowledges he needs to be more invested in irrigation, but Alabama farmers traditionally have less irrigation than their counterparts in neighboring states.
EAST ALABAMA FARMER Mitch Lazenby stands next to a pond that eventually should pump about a foot of water on 30 to 40 acres of land.
Realizes the need
Lazenby acknowledges he needs to be more invested in irrigation, but Alabama farmers traditionally have less irrigation than their counterparts in neighboring states. In many cases, a lack of water resources has been the primary obstacle, but Lazenby’s project — one of only a few like it in the state — could change that.
The project is part of the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) administered by NRCS, promoting ground and surface water conservation and improving water quality by helping farmers and ranchers implement agricultural water enhancement activities.
Alabama AWEP has focused on the installation of upland storage ponds. Practices include constructing upland irrigation storage ponds, installing pumps and pipelines to fill storage ponds, irrigation system improvements or enhancements to improve the efficiency of and reduce the energy needs of existing irrigation systems, and the installation of soil moisture sensors and water meters to monitor and improve irrigation efficiencies.
Applicants for the cost-share program are ranked competitively statewide, with plans implemented over a two to three-year period.
With so few of the projects being awarded to farmers in Alabama, Lazenby says he feels fortunate, but also challenged.
“These projects are by no means slam dunks, especially considering the price of fuel needed to run an irrigation system. AWEP makes an unsensible project sensible. Many farmers don’t know if they should spend the money required to make this work, but it may be the only option for some.”
In addition to growing peanuts and cotton, Lazenby also grows corn and hay, in addition to raising about 200 head of registered Angus. His family also has an agri-tourism venture that offers something for visitors during three seasons of the year.
“Primarily, we’re a row-crop operation, and that’s what is driving this project — we want to micromanage our water here at this farm. The land we’re using for this project never laid well and was wet. It’s hard to find sites that really fit the program really well because you’re trying to find a place that’s conducive to building a pond, but it can’t have any runoff in it.
“They don’t want you to dam up a creek with this program, so the first challenge is finding a site that doesn’t have a stream running through it, but also is conducive to building a pond. Secondly, you have to be close enough in proximity to pump water from a stream to the pond, and you must have a stream you can pump water from.”
Lazenby says he had land that couldn’t be farmed, and a site that was densely populated with trees. “It was bottomland where beavers backed up water, and we could never do much with it. It was difficult to get farm equipment into the area.”