Posted 25 April 2012. Forage and Grazinglands.
Irrigation, Soil Moisture Monitoring Good Bets for Forage Producers
Source: University of Arkansas Press Release. www.uaex.edu
Fayetteville, Arkansas (April 20, 2012)--Irrigation is a staple in row crop production that forage producers might consider too.
Jamey Styles of Johnson County, who shared 2012 Grower of the Year honors from the Arkansas Quality Forage program, with Tom Ritz of Gentry, uses irrigation.
“Last year probably sold a lot of pivots,” he said, adding he was glad he had irrigation during last year’s drought.
“We could consistently supply people with hay with this last year,” he said. “We were able to take care of people who were long-term customers.”
“Last year’s drought had a lasting impression on farms and pastureland,” said Dirk Philipp, assistant professor-forages, for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “Many producers consider irrigation as a potential solution to remediate drought.”
Although most of Arkansas was out from under any drought classification as of March 6, soil moisture levels are still short in the Ouachita and Arkansas River basins, according to the National Weather Service. However, Oklahoma and Texas, both heavy customers for Arkansas hay last year, were still in bad shape as of April 3.
“Irrigation can dramatically increase yields, but producers need to research and plan for an irrigation system, especially if they have never irrigated,” said Chris Henry, assistant professor-irrigation, for the U of A System Division of Agriculture.
Irrigation can help keep moisture at ideal levels, reduce drought stress, provide predictable, consistent yields and provide high-quality, nutritious forage.
Among the considerations:
• What kind of system/equipment is best suited for an individual operation and what is my return on investment?
• What water source will be used – ground, river or an impoundment? The considerations for each are different.
• How will soil moisture be monitored to prevent over- or under-watering?
• Are the water resources adequate to meet the irrigation demand? Is there adequate capacity from the water source – either well capacity or usable volume from a pond, for example – to meet the plant’s needs as it transpires water throughout the growing season.
Styles added that growers might consider the price of fuel as well.
“The most important thing is that growers plan ahead for an irrigation system.
Everything needs to be matched up, the water supply, the energy source, the pump capacity, the pipeline, the distribution system with the crop water needs,” Henry said. “Think things through before you buy.”