The latest information on irrigation technology will be presented by University of Tennessee ag researchers at the July 24 Milan No-Till Field Day.

“There’s a lot of interest in managing how water is applied to crops,” says Chris Bridges, research associate, UT AgResearch and Education Center at Milan. “We also know that different parts of a field need different amounts of water, based on soil type, crop needs, and other issues.”

Bridges, along with other researchers at the AgResearch Center at Milan, have been testing a Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) system. It’s one of the first of its kind in the state. VRI allows users to customize water application based on topography information, soil data maps, yield data and other user-defined information.

When using VRI, farmers have the ability to “turn on” and “turn off” different sections of an irrigation pivot as it moves across a field, so they can apply water only where it needs to be. Users can also adjust irrigation rates by changing the speed of the pivot. Once the VRI hardware and software are installed, these changes can quickly be made from an office computer or wireless device.

At the Milan No-Till Field Day, an entire tour will be devoted to variable rate irrigation. Justin Miller with Tennessee Tractor will discuss VRI options for center pivots and demonstrate the devices on the AgResearch Center’s pivot. Brian Leib, associate professor, UT Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science (BESS) will give a perspective on VRI in Tennessee, and Shawn Hawkins, associate professor, UT Department of BESS will cover variable speed pumps and pumping costs.

Attendees should board the designated bus in the tent area to take the VRI Tour. Buses leave every 20 minutes beginning at 7 a.m. Field Day registration opens at 6 a.m.

The Milan No-Till Field Day begins at 7 a.m. on Thursday, July 24, at the AgResearch and Education Center at Milan. There is no cost to attend. For directions to the site, and to see the complete field day program, go to http://milan.tennessee.edu or call (731) 686-7362.

Fighting hunger

At the Milan No-Till Field Day, farmers also will take on another problem in many Tennessee families and communities…hunger.

For the second time, a tour stop titled “Farmers vs. Hunger” will be part of the field day program. It’s an opportunity for volunteers to form an assembly line and package thousands of meals to be distributed to local food banks.

“Around 17 percent of the state’s population is food insecure; this includes about 25 percent of the children of Tennessee,” says Blake Brown, director, University of Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center at Milan.  “We may not think about it often, but hunger is a real issue in our communities.”

The food to be packaged is a macaroni and cheese meal that is fortified with soy protein and vitamins. Thanks to the soybean’s unique protein content, this meal will be nutritious and substantial for children and adults. Soybeans are grown on more than 1 million acres in Tennessee, and are the largest row crop in the state.

At the last Milan No-Till Field Day in 2012, volunteers packaged more than 17,000 macaroni and cheese meals. This year organizers have significantly increased the goal to 30,000 meals.    

“This is one way we can utilize soybeans grown in our state to help those in need in our community,” says Brown, who is encouraging civic organizations and church groups to stop by the field day to lend a hand.

“Farmers vs. Hunger” will begin at 9 a.m. inside the West Tennessee Agricultural Museum and continue throughout the day. Field day visitors are welcome to come and go between other tour presentations.