There’s only one thing more impressive than Matthew Turner winning the undergraduate category of the Future of Southern Agriculture student essay competition, sponsored by Farm Press Publications and Syngenta Crop Protection.

He’s now won it twice.

Turner, the son Dan and Pam Turner of Mer Rouge, La., won the $6,000 grand prize in the undergraduate category for 2010. In 2008, he won a grand prize of $2,500 in the same category. He attends Louisiana State University.

One might think that Turner is trying to pay his way through college by winning essay contests. “The money is definitely good,” Turner said. “The first time I won, it helped pay for that semester, and this time, it’s definitely going to help pay for this semester.”

To write his prize-winning essay, Turner drew from his experience growing up on a farm. “During the season, it’s important that we get everything irrigated. We’re cutting corn on the farm right now, and the corn we irrigated efficiently is definitely producing higher yields. But I think we can definitely be more efficient than we are now. I also talked to my dad about it. He’s been to Australia to see what they are doing to conserve water.”

Turner also drew from his college experience. “I went to Lubbock, Texas, last year with an LSU soil judging team, and I got to see a lot of different irrigation techniques to conserve water. I’ve also learned a lot about water conservation in school.”

The general theme of the essay also caught his attention. “The two essays that I’ve written, one on the future of cotton and the other on water conservation, both really mean something to me. I take them to heart. When I sat down to write, I thought of all the things I’ve heard all my life being a farmer’s son. It really wasn’t all that hard.”

Turner wrote in his essay, “One need only look at the history books to see the fall of whole civilizations due to changing weather patterns and water availability. It’s my understanding that all irrigation wells in Australia have a meter attached and a fee is paid for usage. If we leave it to our government or regulatory agencies, this could well be where we are headed. Voluntary reductions in usage today could prevent such intrusions in the future.”

Turner believes that farmers must take the first step toward improving water use efficiency. “Knowing and not guessing when a crop is actually requiring irrigation would be a big step in the right direction. Today’s advancements in technology are making it easier to determine when a crop needs more water. The use of tensiometers, infrared photography, crop monitoring software, can all aid in making sound irrigation decisions.”

Farmers must also consider the construction of on-farm water storage reservoirs, improved field slope consistency, underground piping systems and upgraded pumps and engines, Turner added.

After college, Turner plans to be involved in agriculture at some level, either working on a farm or consulting.

To view Turner’s winning essay, go to www.FutureofSouthernAg.com and click “View the Complete List of 2010 Winners.”