Irrigation systems help crops grow - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Irrigation systems help crops grow

By Jay Polk - bio | email

DOUGHERTY COUNTY, GA (WALB) – With crops baking in the South Georgia sun, farmers are turning on their irrigation systems more than they would like to: especially in corn fields.

The weather conditions have been uncomfortable for everyone lately, even for plants.

Rad Yager, the University of Georgia Extension Agent for Dougherty County said, "we've seen for the last seven days, as everybody knows, extreme heat and dry."

At this stage of the game, this corn needs plenty of moisture...an average of three tenths of inch of rain per day. And when that doesn't happen moisture losses to crops like this corn are very high.

"On a day like today, this corn could be losing 10,000 gallons of water on every acre," said Yager.

That means dramatically reduced yields, if moisture doesn't get put back into the system.

"We lose about 6% of our yield every day," said Yager.

So farmers have turned to this. You've certainly seen it in the fields in rural parts of the area. You can call it mother nature's little helper, although the professionals have a different name.

Doyle Meddors of Meddors Irrigation said that, "we refer to it as mechanized irrigation."

Water is drawn from the ground through a body of water and sent out onto the crops. It's like a rain shower, but man has improved on nature a bit on the efficiency side.

"We commonly see above 90% efficiency," said Meddors.

And just like in other occupations, farming has come into the digital age. From computerized control panels, to nozzles that control the flow to tires that do less damage to the soils that they're running over.

But the biggest change is in the engines that make these machines go.

Meddors said, "there's been a big push to convert the diesel engines to electric. Because of the increased efficiency, the green fuel and concern with waste of oil."

The new engines aren't just cleaner, they offer a more efficient way to make sure that these crops don't wither in the field.

"It's push the button and go. There's minimal amount of service for an electric powered unit," said Meddors.

But while these systems are able to take care of all of the watering needs on small plots of land, it can be fairly expensive to run one of these systems.

"It can cost over $10 and acre to run these systems, every time you turn it on," Yager said.

That means that farmers on land like this could be spending thousands of extra dollars if nature doesn't co-operate. So they - and their crops - are both looking for some cooling rains very soon.

Irrigation systems can put out the equivalent of about 2" of rainfall a week. In order to do that they use about 1200 gallons a minute. That's enough to fill up a standard in-ground swimming pool in about 20 minutes.

Modern center pivots can now run with a GPS system which makes sure that they stop after going one full rotation, helping to avoid overwatering.

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