Lack of water hasn’t been a prominent issue in most of Missouri this year, but in the past decade we have seen a precipitation rollercoaster.
Center pivot overhead irrigation systems have been a go-to for providing water. But groundwater reserves are depleting and more landowners need to be better stewards of the land. In order to get more crops per drop of water, producers can turn to precision irrigation for the best water-use efficiency.
Studies at Greenley Research Center in northeast Missouri have found that tile drainage systems have been a solution, but not all farmers have the luxury of a level field for easy installation. A possible alternative is the use of drip irrigation — which has long been used in vegetable production, plant nurseries and horticulture plantings — that can be implemented for commodity crops such as soybean.
At Greenley Research Center’s free Field Day starting at 7 a.m. on Aug. 5, a demonstration on the installation of a drip irrigation system will be featured in addition to educational talks and tours at the center operated by the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) at the University of Missouri.
Three separate tours geared toward livestock farmers and crop producers will include topics of managing nematodes in corn and soybeans, an overview of the new dicamba and 2,4-D soybeans and recommendations to control horseweed and waterhemp. For cattle ranchers beneficial talks will be offered covering utilization of cover crops for grazing, and an update of fixed-time AI Field Trials. Row crop farmers can learn about nitrogen management in flooded corn and impregnated fertilizers.
“This is a diverse program of applicable material that will be provided on these tours,” said Dana Harder, new superintendent at Greenley Research Center. “All this information has the potential to impact your take-home dollar.”
Another hands-on demonstration will feature ultrasonic forage management by Rob Kallenbach, MU professor and forage specialist. Kallenbach’s work involves mounting ultrasonic sensors on an all-terrain vehicle and scouting pastures to collect data on forage growth and effects of fertilization.
“It’s exciting to have cutting-edge research available for people and this is a great time to get it in a single setting,” added Harder. “These demos are showcasing new ways we can operate more efficiently.”
Research Professor Kelly Nelson will be demonstrating the installation of the drip irrigation system at one of the center’s fields.
“We are looking at being about 90 to 95 percent efficient with our water while using this drip irrigation,” said Nelson. “We have to keep conservation more in our minds if we want to keep continuing production in the long run.”
The drip irrigation system is a subsurface setup with main water lines feeding into plastic hoses placed 12 to 18 inches into the soil. Holes along the hoses allow water to slowly seep into the ground. The goal isn’t to necessarily use less water, but to get more production with the water that is available and waste less. With center pivot irrigation growers are able to achieve 80 percent efficiency. Furrow irrigators reach only 50 percent efficiency, meaning half of the water is lost to evaporation.
Subsurface drip irrigation also allows producers working with rolling terrain — such as the 4 percent grade in the field Greenley Research Center is installing on — to provide efficient use of water.
“There is concern about the installation costs, but our research will help determine the economics of these systems,” said Nelson.
An optional tour of Greenley’s Drainage and Sub-irrigation fields will be offered with information on how managed drainage systems affect crop production and improve water quality.
The 37th annual Field Day will start with breakfast and registration at 7 a.m. Tours will start at 8 a.m. and conclude at noon when lunch will be served.
The Field Day is an opportunity to connect with local farmers, researchers that are doing world-class studies in your own backyard and those involved with making agriculture decisions for the state. Newly appointed director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Richard Fordyce, plans to attend as well.
For more information about Greenley Research Center, visit their new website at http://greenley.cafnr.org/. From Highway 63 in La Plata head east on Highway 156 for 17 miles. The center will be on the left just east of Novelty.
Greenley is one of CAFNR’s Agricultural Research Centers located throughout Missouri that host educational workshops. Visit http://cafnr.org/events/ for more events located across the Show-Me State.