Chad Render says all it took was a little help from his friends in the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the USDA-NRCS to point him toward new water-saving practices on his corn, rice and soybean farm near Pine Bluff, Ark.
Render, who finished in first place in the University’s “Most Crop Per Drop” Corn Irrigation Contest in 2020, talked about his experience in a video shown on the first-ever virtual Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference Jan. 27.
“It doesn’t take that much effort when you have people with the University making it easy for us to do these practices like the Pipe Planner, the moisture sensors, the (surge) valves that y’all offer us to try,” said Render, who averaged producing 11.5 bushels of corn per acre per inch of water in his contest field last year.
“And once we try this from my personal experience, I’m seeing benefits from less water usage and more yield,” he said. “At the end of the day I appreciate what y’all are doing, and the effect it is having on our bottom line.”
Render said he was introduced to the program by Scott Crabb with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Jefferson County. “He made it real simple for me to join in. Last year (2019) I tried it with soybeans; this year I did it with the corn. We had good rainfall, and we monitored our waterings that we had on the corn.”
Curt Beaty with the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service in Jefferson County and Greg Simpson, irrigation program associate with the University’s Rice Research and Extension Center near Stuttgart, also helped with the contest field.
“When Greg comes out to do the yield trials, he’s super,” said Render. “He knows we don’t want to stop any more than we have to when we’re harvesting, but he makes it very simple. The guys who help us on the farm are top-notch. They make it easy for us.”
As the first-place finisher, Render received a $6,000 cash prize. Terry Smith, who farms in Greene County, finished second with 9.6 bushels per acre per inch and received $3,000. Brandon Cain, who farms in White County, was third with 9.5 bushels per acre per inch and received $1,000.
“The competition focuses on maximizing yield by maximizing water use efficiency,” said Dr. Chris Henry, Extension irrigation specialist with the University of Arkansas who began the contest three years ago.
In the corn contest, the second and third place finishers had higher yields than the first-place winner, but Render produced more corn for the amount of water that went on the contest field than other participants.
“The Irrigation Yield Contest is a safe place to try new sustainable technologies and strategies,” said Simpson. “There is value in these technologies for water savings and sustainability, certainly, but also for labor savings and improved net returns.”