Getting Smarter During Smart Irrigation Month

Guest Co-Author: Deborah M. Hamlin, CEO, Irrigation Association 
Field being watered with pivot irrigation system.

Pivot irrigation systems are one example of irrigation technology at work.

Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Water is the driving force of all nature.” It is amazing how this statement from the 15th century holds even truer today. As we celebrate July as Smart Irrigation Month, it is important to reflect on agricultural water use and what it means to our society.

At the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and the Irrigation Association (IA), we recognize that U.S. agriculture uses a lot of water. This is a simple statement right? Well, not really. To some, this is unacceptable; to others it is a way of life. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, if we want our future generations to have a safe and reliable food supply, we have big challenges ahead.

According to the USDA, the United States has more than 55 million acres of farmland irrigated. Agricultural water use accounts for 80 percent of the nation’s consumptive water use.

Crop plants in a field being watered with drip irrigation system.

Drip irrigation enables precise water application on-farm. Photo: Dwight Sipler

No one questions the importance of water management – we all enjoy getting fresh, clean water from our faucets – but how we manage water use in agriculture means a lot to our society, health and environment. As the global population grows and consumes more goods, such as food, clothes and even electronics, coupled with changes in our climate, such as extreme droughts and flooding, our society will push water resources and agricultural production to their limits.

How are we going to meet these challenges?  This is where FFAR and the IA are excited to work together. The mission of the IA is quite simple: promote efficient irrigation. At FFAR, we see the potential that research to advance efficient irrigation brings to the long-term sustainability and productivity of our agricultural system. The opportunities for farmers to implement these new and innovative irrigation technologies and practices are limitless, and we are energized by the speed at which today’s farming community adopts new technology. Just as we have seen advancements in computing and cellular technologies over the past ten years, the advancements in irrigation technologies over this same period are both astonishing and exciting.

As farmers are the first line defenders and stewards of our nation’s natural resources, our organizations are committed to not only advancing and promoting these technologies and practices, but also working with farmers and ranchers to develop solutions to water scarcity, allowing farmers to maximize productivity while not wasting a drop of water.

“Doing more with less” is the marching order we have moving forward. This July…this Smart Irrigation Month…let’s all look for new ways to work together to make sure the water we have goes a long way for everyone.

 

Deborah M. Hamlin, FASAE, CAE

CEO

Irrigation Association

 

Sally Rockey, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research

Comments(3)

  1. Peter Livingston says

    Conservation is very important, but expanding the water supply is also important. We are looking for cost share opportunities for research in the use of highly saline waters. Many areas sit on brackish water sources that they can not use. We have been doing proof of concept studies on a method that is allowing us to take advantage of brackish water with a total dissolved solids contents above 10,000 ppm. The ability for our US farmer’s to use this “new” water will help farmers in our coastal regions that are experiencing salt water intrusion and farmers that have to import water because the groundwater is brackish. As important are countries that only have access to impaired waters. they must go outside of their boarders for food. For these countries food security is of utmost importance.

  2. Alvin Smucker says

    A new long-term technology, which optimizes root zone water, nutrients and oxygen, liberates maximum genetic potential of most plants while improving the environment. Six years of field testing of the surface irrigation trials has increased vegetable production 24% and row crops 40% with ROI of installation costs as brief as 2 years for vegetables and 6 years for some row crops. The continuously improving IWUE by this once-and-done soil water retention technology (SWRT) combined with the best irrigation scheduling, dramatically increases crop production on sand to loam soils while requiring only 60% previous irrigation.

  3. Frank Kwapnioski says

    Since water occurs when precipitation meets the land surface, what happens to precipitation at this interface determines the water supply. Generally, 30% directly evaporates before conservation or management is even considered.

    Although farmers, or agricultural producers in general, are some of the greatest water consumers they are also, because of their vast land surface area, among the greatest water contributors. Consumptive use, as a specific water consumption category, is only a small component of the total water budget or total water supply consumption .

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