What is in this article?:
- Is irrigation the answer for building Southeast grain yields?
- Systems can fit Southeast conditions
- Cost is most common drawback
- Current costs $100-$150 per acre
• 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.
• 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.
IRRIGATION CAN ROUTINELY add up to 100 bushels of corn per acre, according to irrigation specialists in the Southeast.
Systems can fit Southeast conditions
“Too many growers seem to think they have to have a Midwest-like topography to make irrigation work. We have systems that handle up an 18 percent slope — which is a significant slope.
“The bottom line is with today’s technology small, irregular shaped fields, with up and down slopes are not a reason to not use irrigation,” Mills says.
How small is too small for irrigation? Scotty Dunaway co-owner of Georgia-based Wescott Irrigation, says small fields are a reality of farming in the Southeast.
Dryland production is another reality, and along with dryland production comes a high risk of weather-related yield losses.
“If a grower, for example, has a 60 acre field, and wants to grow double-crop soybeans and wheat in rotation with corn, over a period of years his yield potential is going to be limited.
“He may make good yields one year and average or less the next year, but overall, his yield potential is limited,” Dunaway says.
“Year in and year out, we see 100 bushel per acre increase in corn yield — some years less and in some drought years considerably more.
“In soybeans, 50-60 bushel per acre crops are common and higher yields not uncommon in irrigated fields.
“Wheat yields are typically less influenced by lack of moisture, but in some years having water to plant is critical,” Dunaway adds.
“Unless there are some really unusual circumstances, the cost of putting irrigation in that 60 acre field will be around $60,000. “Conservatively, on decent land, a grower should see at least an 80 bushel per acre increase in corn production and 20 bushels per acre in soybeans.
“At today’s prices, or even close to today’s prices, and using only additional yield, the grower could easily pay off the price of an irrigation system in 3-4 years,” he says.