Drought benefits irrigation study - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Drought benefits irrigation study

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August 14, 2006

Randolph County -- While this summer's drought has been a disaster for most South Georgia farmers, agriculture researchers say it has been terrific for them to test crop irrigation.

The scientists hope the studies they are doing now will help farmers in the next drought.

This is a critical time of the year for South Georgia crops, they need a steady supply of water to produce top yields. At the U.S.D.A.'s Irrigation Research site in Randolph County, they have had almost no rain. Research Agronomist Ron Sornesen said "Unfortunately it's really bad for the farmer, but it's really good for us to look at some really good irrigation data."

 These fields of peanuts, corn, and cotton have received less than half the rain they got last year, so most of the moisture the crops have received has come from the irrigation the scientists provided. 

That gives them a perfect study ground. Research Agronomist Ron Sorensen said "It's going to be really interesting to see. We may be able to irrigate it this amount, and still get the same yield as here, and cut back on twenty five percent of the water."

The crops get different amounts of water through different irrigation systems, giving the researchers accurate information about which is best. "Whether it's an irrigation system with a pivot, linear, surface drip, sub-surface drip, we hope to get enough yield data to determine which one would be best for him on his site."

U.S.D.A. researchers have been gathering data here for about six years, and soon will be able to give farmers an accurate picture of the most economical way to produce the best crop. Sorensen said "Save an irrigation here, save a fungicide spray, save a weed spray, save a trip across the field, that's money in his pocket, and time he can spend with his family."

 Better irrigation methods will be more efficient for the farmer in drought times, and let him make better use of water. Sorensen said "Possibly lower crop prices, but it also means water in the rivers to go downstream to other people who may need it."

The lack of rain has made research into sub-surface drip systems and other irrigation methods easy to see. Scientists hope this information will help farmers survive another drought.

U-S-D-A researchers think they have found technology to cut the amount of water used to irrigate crops by about 20-percent while increasing yields.

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