What is in this article?:
- Deans cut costs by increasing irrigation efficiency
- Polyethylene tubing
Furrow irrigation has come a long way over the past 20 years or so, including the popularity of flexible polyethylene tubing. Precision-leveling can help producers like Ronny and Russ Dean get more efficiency from poly tubing. Recycling opportunities are also available for old flexible tubing.
RONNY DEAN JR., left, and his brother Russ, look for efficiency in irrigating with flexible polyethylene tubing, from laying it out to getting it off the farm.
The Deans plant their corn and soybeans on 38-inch rows. Soybeans are planted in twin rows, where the Deans have seen an increase of 5 bushels to 7 bushels per acre. Corn, which has not responded as well to twin-row planting on the Dean farm, is planted in single rows.
In late June, the Deans were within a few days of laying out all their flexible polyethylene tubing for furrow and flood irrigation, and were happy to see crops starting to take off.
They use the same machine to roll out the tubing and pick it up for recycling after the season. “It used to take a three-man to go pick the pipe up, load it up on trailer and haul it to town or dispose of it,” Ronny Jr. said. “Now that we have the machine, it takes one man. We take it to one central spot on each farm, and we call Delta Plastics (the manufacturer of the tubing), and they bring their trucks out, pick it up and recycle it (into industrial garbage bags).
“I like the idea of recycling the pipe. It serves a great purpose. We don’t have pipe sitting everywhere like we used to.”
The Deans are looking closely at creating additional water savings with a new software program called Pipe Planner, which was developed by former University of Arkansas irrigation engineer Phil Tacker, now with Delta Plastics. The program is a more user-friendly version of PHAUCET, or pipe hole and universal crown evaluation tool, developed by engineers with the National Resources Conservation Service in Missouri. The Pipe Planner program “will tell you what size holes need to be punched and where, depending on flow rates and other variables. That’s probably something that we want to look into to do a more efficient job with what we have,” Ronny Jr. said.
The Deans are also using cost-share programs administered through NRCS to further improve the land for watering efficiency and water conservation. “It’s really helped us,” Russ said. “We see ourselves as the middle man between our landowners and NRCS, and we can show that it provides a benefit for everyone.”
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The Deans will spend a little extra to put down multiple lines of flexible tubing in a field to reduce labor during irrigation season. “It’s a lot faster and easier to swap your pipe around than it is to plug holes. When you have multiple lines, one man can do the work of three,” Ronny Jr. said.
The Deans marvel at how far irrigation has come over the last few decades, especially the last 10. “Back when our father and grandfather farmed, they had 1,000 acres and plenty of labor. Now we farm 6,000 acres with six men,” Ronny Jr. said.”
“And we’re doing three times as much irrigation than they ever dreamed of,” Russ added. “We’re more efficient and do a better job of timing our irrigations. That translates into better yields and lower diesel costs.”
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