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TAWC hosts its 5th annual Water CollegeTAWC hosts its 5th annual Water College

TAWC Water College focuses on water conservation, variable rate irrigation, sustainability and cover crops at the 5th Annual Water College.

Shelley E. Huguley

January 18, 2019

15 Slides

More than 200 people attended the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation's 5th annual Water College this month in Lubbock, Texas. The free Water College featured guest speakers such as Parmer County grower Kelly Kettner who discussed the role of carbon, cover cropping and residue in conserving water in a large-acre farming system and how that interacts with the soil microbes. Joining him on stage was Jeff Miller with Forefront Agronomy who discussed the benefits of variable rate irrigation in West Texas, specifically on Kettner's 2018 cotton crop. 

"What we were trying to do is compare a grower's standard, what guys have normally done to schedule their irrigation, versus variably applying water," says Miller, who drew up a prescription for Kettner based on soil parameters and the crop he was growing and then split the pivot into zones where the sprinkler could be sped up or slowed down to adjust the application rate. "Not every one of these fields is table-top flat. There's some variation across the field. We also have a prevailing southwest wind that we need to deal with, so if there's a way we could apply our water differently and still get the biggest bang for our buck, that's our premise."

Over the last two years, through Miller's partnership with TAWC's producer projects, he says they've seen a 150-pound increase when variable rate technology is used, applying a half-inch less of water, "which doesn't sound like much but to get 150 pounds out of that is pretty effective."

Looking into the future, while grower profitability is important, Miller says if a grower can save water each year and extend the life of the aquifer, "whenever you start thinking about sustainability, we've got to make money to stay here but we've also got to be here as long as we possibly can. Looking at technology like this is allowing us to strive for these goals."

Conference attendees also heard from Shawn Wade, Plains Cotton Growers, about helpful online tools, such as those found on the TAWC website: a heat unit calculator, Mesonet weather data and a cotton water use estimator to name a few. 

Also on tap were John Duff, National Sorghum Producers; President Dr. Lawrence Schovanec, Texas Tech University; Jesse Daystar, Cotton Incorporated; Kathleen Jackson, Texas Water Development Board; and Brian Bledsoe, chief meteorologist and climatologist from Colorado Springs, Co.

About the Author(s)

Shelley E. Huguley

Editor, Southwest Farm Press

Shelley Huguley has been involved in agriculture for the last 25 years. She began her career in agricultural communications at the Texas Forest Service West Texas Nursery in Lubbock, where she developed and produced the Windbreak Quarterly, a newspaper about windbreak trees and their benefit to wildlife, production agriculture and livestock operations. While with the Forest Service she also served as an information officer and team leader on fires during the 1998 fire season and later produced the Firebrands newsletter that was distributed quarterly throughout Texas to Volunteer Fire Departments. Her most personal involvement in agriculture also came in 1998, when she married the love of her life and cotton farmer Preston Huguley of Olton, Texas. As a farmwife she knows first-hand the ups and downs of farming, the endless decisions that have to be made each season based on “if” it rains, “if” the drought continues, “if” the market holds. She is the bookkeeper for their family farming operation and cherishes moments on the farm such as taking harvest meals to the field or starting a sprinkler in the summer with the whole family lending a hand. Shelley has also freelanced for agricultural companies such as Olton CO-OP Gin, producing the newsletter Cotton Connections while also designing marketing materials to promote the gin. She has published articles in agricultural publications such as Southwest Farm Press while also volunteering her marketing and writing skills to non-profit organizations such a Refuge Services, an equine-assisted therapy group in Lubbock. She and her husband reside in Olton with their three children Breely, Brennon and HalleeKate.

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