More of those who already have irrigation cited this reason, perhaps because they are more directly familiar with actual costs, says Molnar. This was true for each size category, but operators of large farms cited this barrier the most, at 78 percent.

High energy costs were mentioned by 62 percent of the respondents, with small operators being less sensitive to this barrier.

“Financing the improvements was a barrier for 57 percent of the sample, although fewer small operators cited this barrier,” states the study.

“About half of the sample indicated the returns from irrigation would not cover installation costs — operators of large farms were more likely to feel this way.

“They also tended to feel that irrigation system operating costs were too risky. About half of the sample indicated this as “some” or a “great” barrier.

Lack of a reliable source of water was a barrier for 44 percent of all respondents, with more medium-size and large operations considering this as a barrier.

About 38 percent of the respondents said that getting good advice on how to make irrigation pay was a problem.

Overall, 41 percent of all respondents irrigated some or most of their row crops. Row crops such as corn, cotton, and soybeans were irrigated to some extent by 26 percent and were irrigated the most by 15 percent.

Operators of medium-size and large farms each irrigated row crops 52 percent. Only 20 percent of small farm operators, however, irrigated row crops to any extent.

The survey also found that technology was not widely used to make decisions on water applications by Alabama operators, despite the accessibility and ease-of-use of irrigation scheduling programs such as IrrigatorPro.

The majority of respondents — 81 percent — decided whether to apply water to their crops by observing crop conditions. An overwhelming 93 percent of large farm operators used crop observation, along with 86 percent of medium-size farm operators and 63 percent of small farm operators.

Forty-three percent of all respondents used the feel of the soil as the basis for deciding when to apply water to their crops. Only 9 percent used soil moisture-sensing devices, and only 4 percent based their decision to irrigate based on media reports on crop-water needs.

Another 4 percent decided when to apply water by computer simulation modes, and only 2 percent used a commercial scheduling service.

phollis@farmpress.com