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Precision irrigation technology has come a long way in a lifetime

Staff irrigation-center-pivot-staff-dfp-0357.jpg
Irrigation technology is arguably the last frontier for major technology applications.
Irrigation technology in the Midsouth continues to advance.

When I was a kid, I had a tough time feeling comfortable when we came out to the land of abundant water.  

My family farmed in the West where we irrigated everything. I could start an irrigation syphon pipe when I was five. We rode around with the irrigator when we could first hold a shovel and helped him build checks in the field to help the water spread evenly.  

Almost every drop of water used by the crop had to be pumped from the aquifer or ditched in from the river. 

So, when we visited the cousins in the Midsouth, I couldn't imagine how rain could supply all the needed water for an abundant corn or cotton crop. 

Eventually, I began to see center pivots pop up on farms in the Delta. In the early 1990s a friend from Coolidge, Ariz., said he had sold some drip irrigation supplies to growers in South Georgia.  

I was fascinated when poly pipe began showing up in cotton and soybean fields throughout the South. I was becoming more confident about water supply to row crops in the Delta by the late 90s. 

Today, I am right at home among the rust-colored center pivots of the Delta, the drip irrigation lines in eastern Mississippi and the deflated poly pipe lining fields from Missouri to Louisiana. I have a sense of peace about supplying our crops with the moisture necessary to grow uniform fields of food and fiber. 

Well, that was until a few years ago when I started to hear about aquifer depletion and water quality issues in the Midsouth. 

I attended a Delta Council meeting where they discussed issues with the water supply that we had assumed was so abundant. I was about to kick in some vital information when they introduced someone who I know of from work done on the same kind of issues in the West.  

It is great to know that we can work on common issues across the country and have resources that are applicable across the board. The technology developed by irrigation experts can be applied here in the Midsouth, as well as in the West or the Midwest. 

I am continually struck by how innovative the agriculture industry is and how we can fine tune the process of growing plants and animals, from the genetics of a cotton plant to the management of pest control drift via nozzle size. 

A couple of weeks ago, Nick King of Valley Irrigation told me that irrigation was the last frontier for major technology applications. While some geneticists or image capturing experts might want to debate that, the technology that is being applied today in irrigation is cutting edge and precise. 

The technology is amazing. And that is exactly what we have come to expect in agriculture.  

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