What is in this article?:
• 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.
Cost is most common drawback
The most common reason for not adding irrigation to a farming operation is cost.
Though the standard cost for irrigation equipment is generally around $1,000 per acre, these costs can go up significantly if a grower adds non-standard equipment to match the system up to various topographic demands.
There is no doubt irrigation can increase and sustain higher crop production, whether this increase is adequate to cover the cost of irrigation is a farm to farm question.
In addition to the increased yield, growers also get the added benefit of reduced crop insurance costs.
They also get the assurance that fertilizer and water-activated herbicides will work more efficiently. Dunaway says that in some areas of the Southeast, resistance to glyphosate and other popular herbicides have forced growers to use herbicides that are moisture activated, giving even more importance to the use of irrigation to insure these materials work.
Crop insurance is becoming a significant factor in whether to irrigate or not irrigate.
Roughly 67 percent of crop insurance claims are water related, about evenly divided between too much and too little water. Removing more than 30 percent of the liability for crop insurance is a significant savings to growers, Mills says.
In peanut producing areas of the Southeast, growers are finding contracts are often tied to performance and performance is often tied to availability of irrigation water.
“As peanut growers head into an unprecedented year of contract uncertainty, having irrigation may be the difference between getting a contract not getting one,” Dunaway adds.
Even some buyers are requiring irrigation to insure growers can provide the crops they contract to provide in the futures market. Being able to sell a crop at a premium price can add significantly and quickly to value of an irrigation system.
Cost is often tied to availability of water. How deep will I have to go to find water? How much surface water do I need to supply an irrigation system?
These are frequently asked questions, and the answers vary from farm to farm.
The cost of the irrigation system is fairly constant from one equipment manufacturer to another, but the cost of getting water to the system can vary dramatically from location to location, and growers need to be aware of both the installation and use costs of irrigation.