Cost-share funding is available to Georgia farmers in 36 counties to fund variable rate irrigation systems. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that the $300,000 in funding will be used to implement variable rate irrigation on approximately 20 systems using technology developed by the University of Georgia National Environmentally Sound Production Lab (NESPAL).

Variable rate irrigation allows for precision control of a pivot irrigation system. The exact amount of water can be targeted to where it is needed. If an area of the field needs less water, the computer controlling the irrigation system can be programmed to deliver less water to the area.

Application rates can be set from zero to 200 percent of “normal.” Case studies have shown from 7.5 percent water savings to as much as 36 percent water savings, ranging from 7 million to 14 gallons of water over a five-year period.

“Very few fields are uniform,” says Cathee Wilson, acting state conservationist. “Variable rate irrigation allows the minimum amount of water to be used where and when you need it, ultimately resulting in water savings.”

The Ground and Surface Water Variable Rate Irrigation Project Area covers parts of four NRCS Soil & Water Conservation Districts, consisting of the following counties: Bibb, Crawford, Peach, Houston, Taylor, Macon, Dooly, Pulaski, Schley, Stewart, Webster, Sumter, Crisp, Wilcox, Quitman, Randolph, Terrell, Lee, Worth, Turner, Ben Hill, Irwin, Tift, Clay, Calhoun, Dougherty, Early, Baker, Mitchell, Colquitt, Miller, Seminole, Decatur, Grady, Thomas and Brooks.

The money was made available through the Ground and Surface Water Conservation (GSWC) provision of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Farmers should contact their local USDA Service Center or NRCS office to apply for the program.

e-mail: phollis@primediabusiness.com