Jason Krutz says farmers like to “stump the Extension specialist” when the latter comes to their farm to give them advice. He says Extension specialists don’t mind that because usually they – and the grower – learn something from the experience. That was the case on one of Krutz’ irrigation scheduling trials that he discussed at the Delta Ag Expo in Cleveland, Miss.
"A lot of times when we get called out, the grower is trying to stump us,” said Krutz, who led off an Irrigation Roundtable at the Bolivar County Extension Center. “The field in the upper right corner of the map being displayed is his problem field. His well is always running in that field, but he never quite gets it irrigated properly.”
During the growing season, 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,” Krutz 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.”
Krutz and the MCES specialists installed surge valves on the irrigation pump, set the grower up on the PHAUCET program and installed moisture sensors at six-, 12-, 24- and 36-inch soil depths in the problem field. The producer irrigated five times with 12.85 inches of water and harvested 87 bushels of soybeans per acre in one corner and watered five times with 14.9 inches of water and cut 85 bushels in another.
“This is the problem set,” said Krutz, displaying figures for the upper right quadrant of the field. “We get across it. It takes a little bit of time, but we do it. This well sits idle part of the season. We put three shots out with a total of 9.4 inches and cut 86 bushels per acre. On our other 40-acre set, we gave it three shots with about 7.2 inches of water and cut 84 bushels.
“So if you look at it just for this year alone, we’re about a bushel per acre behind, profitability is about equal, and we did it with about 40 percent less irrigation water. In reality, we probably did it with half the water. We were trying to set up the surge valve, and we blew out that pipe. We had to come back in and re-irrigate that field. And I left all that in there.”