- Agronomic: corn, cotton, sorghum (milo), soybeans
- Crop Production: irrigation
- Production Systems: general crop production
The LSU AgCenter will collaborate with the NRCS and other agricultural professionals in addressing sustainable row crop irrigation in Louisiana. We focus on collaboration among Limited Resource Farmers (LRF) in row-crop production, extension agents, NRCS personnel, and professional crop consultants to strengthen existing networks and expertise of producers. The objective is to develop a comprehensive training program for LRF to address the resource concerns of agricultural crop production. The training program materials will introduce sustainable irrigation practices and production methods focused on irrigation timing, quantity, quality, and related economics to LRF. The project is also aimed at providing opportunities for professional development, in-depth instruction, and interactive learning environment for the trainees through workshops, field days, and farmer panels. Extension publications, materials developed at land grant universities, and SARE bulletins on the topic will also be circulated during workshops and field days. All materials will be made available on the LSU AgCenter website for future reference. Hands on training on irrigation technologies and multimedia training of an economic tool to evaluate the net profitability of irrigation management practices will be provided. All trainees will become well-versed with the benefits of sustainable irrigation management practices, and will be able to educate and conduct more trainings and workshops to promote the benefits of such practices across the southern region. Pre?and post?workshop questionnaires on education material and training process will be used for evaluating project outcomes. Website tracking will be enabled for tracking downloads of the materials posted to the AgCenter website.
Project objectives from proposal:
The primary behavior-based objective is for the participants of this program to incorporate sustainable agricultural practices into integrated irrigation management strategies by implementing the below principles and techniques into their education and extension programs.
Introduction to sustainable production methods – Participants will learn to identify key growth stages of row crops. The benefits of irrigation at critical growth stages will be demonstrated. Recommendations for seasonal initiation and termination of irrigation for various crops will be addressed. Participants will be able to train the farmers in critical growth stages of row crops and water needs at these stages. Also, participants will learn about the importance of residue management and cover crops on overall soil health, organic matter, soil aggregation, and water storage capacity. Mentor farmers from the workshop will now be ready to take the next step to fine tune their own operations.
The relationship between soil, plant, and water will be presented with emphasis on irrigation scheduling. Mentors and mentor-farmers will now become comfortable with various irrigation scheduling tools. The mentors will become educated on the available federal programs related to integrated water management plans and provide detailed training on how to apply for them. It is expected that at least 50 percent of mentors will adopt at least one irrigation scheduling tool.
Introduction to water conservation technologies – Participants will learn about water conservation technologies that include soil moisture sensors and surge valves for irrigation. Efficiency differences inherent in irrigation design will be addressed with emphasis on targeted water application. It is our expectation that at least 75 percent of the participants will be able to select and install the technologies in a farmers’ field. It is also our expectation that in 2016 these technologies will be adopted in some of the water-stressed parishes within the state. Trainees can facilitate adoption by LRF through the information learned at the training sessions. Also, trainees will learn to use computerized hole-sizing software, critical for optimal irrigation application. The software will be provided to the trainees on USB drives. The trainees will be able to demonstrate the use of the software at their own meetings.
Introduction to crop-water management practices – Participants will learn about assessing the water quality and developing nutrient prescriptions. They will also be exposed to tail water recovery systems and steps necessary to take advantage of nutrient availability in the runoff waters. Participants will learn about methods to measure water quality throughout the agricultural system and reduce the potential for excessive application of nutrients. Trainees will learn about the economic loss associated with such inefficient production practices. Participants will learn the requirements for designing and installing tail water recovery systems and about the federal programs that provide assistance for farmers interested to adopt such practices. Farmers signing up for these programs will be used as a yardstick to measure the behavioral change in the farming community.
Maximizing economic efficiency – Irrigation systems differ in investment costs as well as pumping costs expenditures due to differences in irrigation application efficiency. Moreover, rapidly changing fuel prices are expected to impact the profitability of irrigated crop production. Any effort toward conservation of water resources will only occur when economic incentives exist, which requires evaluation of the economics of water use. Hence, there is a need to evaluate relative economic profitability of any changes in irrigation methods and/or irrigation amounts. The overall economic objective is to develop a mathematical model to estimate irrigation costs under a variety of operating conditions that allows evaluation of irrigation systems. An irrigation cost estimator tool will be developed as a web?application that will allow participants to learn about the economic effectiveness of various irrigation practices. The tool will allow the trainees to promote profitable production practices. It is very likely that at least 50 percent of the mentors and 50 percent of the mentor farmers from the workshops will adopt the tool. Such information is strongly believed to make informed decisions that would maximize net profits and will be a major motivating factor in getting farmers adopt the water management strategies.
Trainees conducting trainings –It is our strong expectation that at least 50 percent of the trainees will conduct at least one training in their parish/region during the second year of the project. PI’s and Co-PIs will continue contact with the train?the?trainer workshop participants in assisting them with their training needs.