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‘When do I start, when do I stop and what do I do if I get a rainfall event in the middle? As a team, our solution is use soil moisture sensors. There are other techniques out there, and I’m not really concerned about them. We know these things work because we rolled them out in an extensive format, and we beat you in nearly every field we were in using soil moisture sensors and plant physiology.”
JASON KRUTZ shows the programmable control panel for a surge valve during a break at the Delta Ag Expo. Krutz is an irrigation specialist with Mississippi State University.
Half the water
“So in this case, I’m 16 bushels an acre ahead of him, I’m $70 an acre ahead of him, and I did it with half the water he used,” said Krutz. “In these mixed to heavy soil types, we know how sensitive corn is to nitrogen dynamics, and I’m telling you if you’re oversaturating these fields you’re setting up denitrification, and denitrification in corn is not a good thing.”
Pumping costs were not the only issue the specialists addressed on one farm. The producer had recently installed surge irrigation and had begun using PHAUCET for setting up us his flexible irrigation tubing. But he was not using soil moisture sensors or other timing devices.
“He was doing what a lot of our growers do, irrigating every seven to 10 days,” said Krutz. “On this Dundee silt loam, the producer put six irrigation shots out or 18.4 inches of water. Does anyone know what that means? His permit says he can apply 18 inches of water so he is in violation of his permitted value.”
The grower harvested 217 bushels of corn per acre while the specialists cut 222 bushels per acre with three irrigations, 8.1 inches of water total. They spent $50 an acre less for pumping with a 55 percent reduction in water used, and the grower would not have been in violation of his well permit.
Krutz also discussed a study in a soybean field which the grower had never been able to irrigate with much success.
“A lot of times when we get called out, they’re trying to stump us,” said Krutz. “The field in the upper right corner of the map being displayed is this grower’s problem field. His well is always running in that field, but he never quite gets it irrigated properly.”
The grower begins irrigating in the upper right corner and starts putting water across the field. By day four or five, he still doesn’t have water to the other end, but he stops irrigating and moves to the next corner so that he doesn’t get behind on his watering schedule.
“He went back to look at his yield data, and he said that over the last several years, this field is usually about 10 bushels per acre behind the other ones,” he said. “That makes sense because he’s not irrigating the bottom third or fourth of the pad. He’s probably like a lot of our growers – he doesn’t have it set up on PHAUCET, he doesn’t have a surge valve and he doesn’t have a scheduling tool.”