What is in this article?:
- University of Arkansas seeks to educate producers, consultants on best water use.
- Irrigation scheduler training ongoing.
- Also tied to update of Arkansas Water Plan.
Towards that end, Hamilton and Extension colleagues have begun a series of workshops to teach PHAUCET to producers and consultants. “We’re training producers on how to use PHAUCET, which was developed by the Missouri NRCS. It’s a technical program and you really need to know how to tweak it and get the information you need to provide a good design, a good irrigation set-up.”
Anyone wanting to attend had best get their foot in the door early. That’s because agents want to keep crowds at training events at a size, “where we can really be one-on-one, hands on, with those learning the program.”
Following the initial early-April meeting at the Lon Mann research station in Marianna -- where attendees included consultants from the Missouri bootheel -- the concept proved out. Further training sessions in Dumas and Jonesboro have also provided “excellent” responses from farmers and consultants.
“In the morning, we train (Extension) agents how to use the program,” says Hamilton. “Then, farmers and consultants come in during the afternoon and the agents are up to speed on how to help them. The hope is once the agents gain confidence in PHAUCET they will do more of this training in counties as the year goes along.
“It wouldn’t work nearly as well if I just stood up and started teaching for an hour. You never know who has good computer skills. It’s much better to have a teacher-to-student ratio that allows the farmers to go at their own rate.”
While rains have caused a stuttering planting season, they have also provided time for the training. “When the forecast is unfavorable for planting it may be favorable for a session. When we can, we’ll quickly schedule a meeting. We’re looking to do more in the future."
Hamilton points to Chris Henry, irrigation specialist based in Stuttgart, as someone whose work producers would be smart to follow. “He’s top-notch and has a lot of irons in the fire. He’s doing a bunch of research on surge valves and other things looking for cost savings and smarter water use.
“There’s a lot of work ahead of us in educating everyone about the need to do this. But we can do it.”