Irrigation assessment helps farmers find efficiencies (Keeping the Farm)
(Editor’s note: Dastina Wallace is a public affairs specialist with USDA NRCS Service, Delaware.)
An assessment of his center pivot irrigation system saved one Delaware farmer time, energy and ultimately added to his productivity.
“Before I was struggling with the way it was designed. It was hard to run it efficiently,” said farmer Will Carlisle. “Now, by making all of the improvements, not only can I do a better job irrigating, I can use the water more wisely and more efficiently.”
This assessment is performed under an Irrigation Water Management Conservation Activity Plan, which provides the producer with a guide for the proper management and application of irrigation water resources.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offers producers financial assistance to have a certified Technical Service Provider develop an IWM CAP for their farming operation.
Under the IWM CAP, a certified technician identifies deficiencies by performing a can test on the irrigation system and placing a flow meter on the piping that supplies the system.
Once complete, the TSP can recommend retrofits to maximize efficiencies.
Producers can then take their recommendations to their local conservation planner to apply for financial assistance.
“The benefit of having an Irrigation Water Management CAP is to make sure the system is operating at maximum capacity, so farmers know exactly how much water they’re putting on,” said soil conservationist John Bushey. “When an irrigation system is installed, a simple pump test is done to give an estimate on how much water the system will provide. Some of them are very close but some of them are far off too. Nothing is 100 percent until you actually test it.”
The more farmers know about their water, the better they can manage their operation. “Without doing a flow meter test, a producer could think they are putting on three-tenths of an inch when in reality, they are putting on four to five-tenths. Or vice versa, putting on less water than expected,” said Bushey. “Either extra water or not enough will have an impact on crop yields and the environment.”
“With the can test, it ensures that the nozzles are working as designed and the water is distributed evenly across the crop field,” said Bushey.
Having the plan and then receiving assistance for the irrigation updates has helped the Carlisles. “The program allowed me to add wells to the farm so that I can water it a lot quicker — and water more per acre,” he said. “With this recent heat wave, I was able to keep up with the crop’s water needs.”
There are numerous reasons to and benefits for developing an IWMP CAP.
It’s a way to help the farmer maximize yields and profit margin, reduce costs and benefit the environment.
Efficient irrigation reduces energy usage/consumption, optimizes the use of available water supplies, improves nutrient use efficiency and improves water quality, soil quality and air quality.
The USDA NRCS offers financial assistance through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help pay for the cost of developing the IWM CAP.
Eligible producers may apply at their local NRCS office.
For more information on EQIP eligibility or an Irrigation Water Management Conservation Activity Plan, please contact your local USDA Service Center to speak with a conservation planner.
To find your office, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/contact and search the map by state.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925