Facing the Reality of Irrigation Management

4-13-17 Facing the Reality from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Keith Byerly

by Keith Byerly

A couple of weeks ago, I made a few trips several hours to the South and West to represent our AquaSystems Moisture Probe system at a field day. I came away from these experiences confident that I learned a lot more from the Agronomists and Growers that attended from Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas than they learned from me. While there was no DeLorean involved in the trip, I’m sure I took a trip forward in time to see what the future could hold for us if we don’t learn from their past.

I was in an area where without irrigation, I’m pretty sure that pasture and a Wheat rotation involving fallow are the only sustainable crops long term. They sit above the Ogallala Aquifer and rely on that for their livelihood, therein lies the problem. The aquifer is down in many areas. 25-75 feet everywhere, and 70’ in the area I was visiting. The yearly water allocation that they receive is double what we use in an average year. But yet, here they are with the same questions and the same apprehensions that we are facing in our area. These growers are wondering if Moisture Probes are going to save them any money and if Pivot Monitoring and VRI is worth the investment.

I’ll be honest with you, as I left that day, I found myself utterly bewildered. I was a bit dazed at what I had just experienced. I spoke with growers that have had to take 1 and 2 spans off of their pivots because their water volume is down to 400 gpm, and it is falling off even more in August. Their soil is getting a white crust on it from the salts in some of the poor quality irrigation water they are getting from canals when the wells are failing. Through all of that, they look at an investment in a moisture probe, which for them equates to the cost of about 1” of water, and wonder if they can justify the expenses.

I apologize right now if this offends you, your friends, or any of your family, but seriously. Give me a break. The cost of pumping water and irrigation isn’t the extent of their costs. Lowering wells, losing acres, the value of your farm; those are the costs of over irrigating. And while most parts of Eastern Nebraska and Eastern Kansas that use irrigation are a long way from this happening, we have to realize that it’s on us to never let it happen. With the focus on the Aquifer now, society is going to hold us accountable to make sure it doesn’t happen.

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So today, it’s not so much about what your take home for the day is, but it’s conveying what I brought home with me from this trip. The AquaSystems platform from Central Valley Ag is essential to us providing you, the growers the tools you need. Economics say that this investment makes a difference in your ROI, even at our commodity prices today. I refuse to believe that the economic aspects of adopting a moisture probe and the service that comes with it from our team of ACS Specialists and Agronomists put it out of reach for any of us.

The fact of the matter is, we are sitting in the boat right next to our neighbors to the West and South. Society doesn’t care how many hundred miles separate us. The same Aquifer connects us, and we will be held to the same standards sometime in the future. I don’t want to wait until I’m told what to do – I think we all need to be proactive together.

When you are done planting or rained out for a few days, I encourage you to pick up the phone or visit with your FSA or ACS Specialist and talk about moisture probes for your farm if you are an irrigator. I believe that this is the best technology that we have today!