Reducing Water Usage and Energy Costs Through Improved Irrigation Management

Final report for ES16-127

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2016: $76,656.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Mississippi State University
Region: Southern
State: Mississippi
Principal Investigator:
Curt Lacy
Mississippi State University
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Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Drew Wilson (Educator)
  • Anthony Bland (Educator)
  • Dan Haire (Educator)
  • Jimbo Burkhalter (Educator)
  • Craig Hankins (Educator)
  • Andy Braswell (Educator)
  • Alex Deason (Educator)
  • Preston Aust (Educator)
  • Phillip Vandevere, Jr. (Educator)

Education

Educational approach:

 

In general our team delivers technical assistance in a variety of ways including, but not limited to: 1) assisting producers with collecting the prerequisite data to develop a “Pipe Planner” plan, 2) utilizing the data to develop a “Pipe Planner” plan for individual fields, 3) installing soil moisture sensors on demonstration farms to schedule irrigation initiation and termination, and 4) providing technical assistance to other farmers on irrigation scheduling decisions.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Improve water use efficiency
Objective:

Reduce irrigation water usage through the adoption of improved management practices

Description:

Over the course of this project, our group utilized on-farm demonstrations, consultations, newsletters, and technical assistance to help producers in the Yazoo-Mississippi River Delta to improve water use efficiency though the use of flow meters, proper use of surge valves, computerized hole-selection for furrow irrigation, and utilizing soil-moisture sensors to initiate and terminate irrigation.

Outcomes and impacts:

Project outcomes and impacts are detaile din the project outcomes section.

Educational & Outreach Activities

325 Consultations
12 On-farm demonstrations
21 Published press articles, newsletters
1 In-service training on Pipe Planner and irrigation initiation and termination utilizing moisture sensors. 2017 National Irrigation Conference, 2 Extension Agents now Certified Agricultural Irrigation Specialists. Moisture Sensor demonstrations to initiate and terminate irrigation on approximately 15 different farms.

Participation Summary

13 Extension
80 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

100 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
20 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

As of December 2018, our team has provided well over 325 irrigation consultations in the Delta Extension Region.  These consultations include assisting with Pipe Planner, conducting flow meter checks, and providing technical assistance on soil moisture probes as well as irrigation initiation and termination decisions.  These consultations have directly impacted over 25,000 acres with agents indicating that producers are largely adopting the practices as quickly as feasible.  Agents further indicate that the knowledge disseminated through this effort could easily have a ten-fold impact in just a few years.

1100 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Additional Outcomes:

Below is a narrative from one of our agents that is representative of the educational outcomes associated with this project.

“I have been working with this grower for a number of years in planting cotton variety trials.  This past year I was discussing with him about installing soil moisture sensors.   We decided to install two locations, one on the south and the other on the north side of the fields.  The south side being a sandy type soil with the north being a mixed soil type.  I let him keep the portable meter that I have so he could check the sensors at his convenience.  I went back the next week and he showed me a graph that he had started comparing the sandy type soil with the mixed type soil readings.  He could not believe the results, I think we will have a new producer purchasing soil sensors for his operation this year.  I will be working with other producers this year installing sensors on their operation hopefully having the same positive results that I had with this producer.”

Another of our agents reported that because of the soil moisture demonstrations he has been doing, his farmers have saved multiple irrigation events on several thousand acres.  This has resulted in savings of thousands of dollars in expenses and several hundred millions gallons of water.

 

Recommendations:

The funds provided by this project allowed us to equip Extension Agents with educational demonstration equipment that due to state budgets would not have been otherwise possible.  This equipment has allowed us to conduct multiple demonstrations all over the Mississippi and Yazoo River Delta.  As a result of these demonstrations, more producers are using moisture sensors to initiate and terminate irrigation events.  Also, because of the immediate and very tangible results from the soil moisture meter demonstrations, several agents have used some of their limited discretionary funds from other sources to purchase additional moisture to increase the number of demonstrations.  Finally, the items purchased with these grant funds will continue to be used after this project ends, extending the results of this specific effort far into the future.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.