Unbiased agricultural research depends on removing all variables in a given situation, including irrigation.

That’s why modern, properly functioning irrigation systems are become so important to farms such as the one at the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo in Moultrie, Ga.

With the help of companies like Reinke Manufacturing, the Expo’s non-profit Darrell Williams Research Farm has embarked on a multi-year project to adopt new irrigation technologies and discover more efficient ways of using water.

The 600-acre research farm — a feature of the Expo’s summer field day and the main show in October — has a reputation for being a reliable proving ground for new crop hybrids and various biotechnology and precision ag products and methods. Recent improvements in irrigation capabilities will only enhance that reputation, says Expo Farm Manager Michael Chafin.

In southwest Georgia, where the Expo site is located, irrigation has expanded significantly, from about 25 percent of all cropland 20 years ago to anywhere from 55 to 60 percent today. So for the Expo to mirror what area growers are doing, irrigation is a must, and proper, updated irrigation is even better.

The irrigation upgrades made by the Expo will help insure that research is measuring the intended factors, and that the results are not being impacted by spotty irrigation, says Chafin.

In other words, irrigation will be removed as a variable in research plots. An improved cotton, soybean, corn or peanut variety will stand on its own merits and not be influenced by water intake or the lack thereof.

“We want to help farmers in all ways to be as efficient as possible,” says Mike Mills, Reinke territory manage for the Southeast.

“When irrigation is reliable, the university researchers and seed development companies can better gauge the results of studies at the farm. It takes irrigation out as a factor because the researcher knows that irrigation irregularity isn’t impacting the results,” he says.

For the past two years, Reinke has worked to upgrade the Expo’s irrigation capabilities. Last year, the company presented a new eight-tower center pivot irrigation system to the research farm. This year, the company donated a new high-efficiency irrigation system. Reinke also donated equipment in 2004 and 2007 to help expand irrigation at the Expo Farm.