While the demand and price for local grains continues to soar in the Upper Southeast, for the most part long-term average yields of corn and other grain crops remain steady at best and in the case of corn, in some states, actually have declined over the past 10 years.

The biggest cause for the lack of growth in grain yields is clearly highly fluctuating weather patterns over the past decade or so.

Despite a lack of control of the weather, some contend the answer to improved and sustainable yields is providing water to the crop when it needs it the most.

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There are a number of reasons why growers don’t irrigate crops in the Southeast, but irrigation specialists contend modern technology and financial flexibility have for the most part overcome these long-standing taboos.

The onset of transgenic crops and other production variables have pushed the average size of farming operations across the region up over the past decade.

What used to be an average size grain operation at the turn of the century is now small by comparison.

Despite so many growers increasing the total acreage they farm, the region is still predominantly made up of small fields, many of them with varying topography, shape and soil types.

Mike Mills, Southeast territory manager for Reinke Irrigation says GPS technology, optional equipment on existing irrigation systems and new technology on new equipment all play a part of solving the problem of small and irregular shaped fields.

For a grower with a couple thousand acres of grain cropland, made up of a hundred or so small, irregular shaped fields, there are several options for putting these areas under irrigation. However, Mills says, the first question to ask is, do I have water available? The second question is how affordable is this water?

“We have design technology available now that doesn’t require that a center pivot system, for example, use the full circle. These systems can be designed to use a part of the circle and adapt to different shapes of fields to fit into the design,” Mills says.

Mills adds that having fields scattered out over a large geographic area is no longer a problem. Reinke for example, can place one telemetry system and work off it for up to 15 miles.

Typically, a dealer will do a path study and determine what type equipment is needed based on the terrain. In some parts of the country, it may be possible to extend that distance to 150 miles.