Delta Farm Press Logo

NRCS gives farmers avenues for new technology

Wiggers Farm Partnership is using the NRCS to help them more efficiently manage their water use.

Raney Rapp, Senior Writer

May 13, 2024

4 Min Read
Wiggers' Pump
Drew Wiggers notes that one of the most impactful changes on his farm was converting diesel-powered well pumps to electricity with the help of CSP funds. Raney Rapp

Public and private cost-share programs give farmers the option to test new technology and conservation practices with lower financial risk before footing the bill of whole-scale implementation.  

For the Wiggers Farm Partnership in Winnsboro, La., utilizing cost-share programs available through NRCS, especially the Conservation Stewardship Program, has enabled them to make compounding changes to irrigation equipment, soil improvements and more.   

Pump power  

One of the most impactful changes Drew Wiggers and his family made was converting diesel-powered well pumps to electricity. The Wiggers farm encompasses two, 1,000 acre fully irrigated properties where they primarily grow corn and soybeans.  

Irrigation on both properties is completely reliant on groundwater. With many well pumps to be converted, using CSP funds to help complete the initial conversions assured Wiggers that the remaining pumps were worth the extra investment. 

“We had the diesel powerplant that was converted to electric,” Wiggers said. “Once we did one, we paid for the others ourselves after seeing how much we liked it in the program. I think it wound up costing us about $15,000 to bury the power line out there and put the motor in and all that kind of gear. We did it to one, it helped us to incorporate that technology, and we saw it as a good investment.” 

Especially for the few center pivots remaining on the Wiggers operation, electricity simplified the process of fixing equipment breakdowns and finding replacement parts for fuse boxes quickly.  

“Electricity is a cleaner option, but I'm not going to say it's 100% more efficient than diesel,” Wiggers said. “But as far as problem solving, it’s a whole lot faster. I can take my meter out and start checking power at the fuses and generally it's a problem here. You don't have to worry about problems and it's a lot easier to diagnose.” 

Pivot precision  

Most of the Wiggers’ land uses flood or in-furrow irrigation, but a few 1970s model center pivots remain in use as relics of the past while the capital is gathered to upgrade. To help improve the pivot’s efficiency before they are decommissioned completely, the Wiggers installed drops.  

“We have four of them and keeping four old pivots going, they were constantly getting stuck, or having a flat tire, having a motor go out,” Wiggers said. “Do they irrigate as well? No. It's very, very sandy. When we have hot, dry years with no rain, like last year, that big pivot normally ran seven days a week. We would fill it up with fuel and we'd stop it every three days or so, check the oil, check the water, grease the drive shaft and turn it right back on.

“My great uncle once said that they were made to supplement rainfall, not necessarily to irrigate.” 

Adding drops to the pivots still in use did not solve the breakdown problems, but it did help make the water use of the pivots more efficient and targeted, especially in dry years, when the family couldn’t make it to the typical tall tasseling point in corn before turning on irrigation.  

For a shorter crop, in dryer weather, drops made all the difference as far as keeping wind from derailing pinpointed water usage and crop progress. 

What’s next? 

With many improvements made in this slow step by step manner, the natural question is, what’s next?

For growing year 2024, the Wiggers farm is testing out their first soil moisture sensor in cooperation with Louisiana State University Extension.  

The sensor sits in a field marked by brightly painted PVC pipe in hopes it makes it through the season without an equipment accident. The Wiggers are fully intending to make irrigation decisions in the field solely based on the sensor’s indications and researchers’ advice, to truly test whether sensors could be of use in more fields.  

“The sensor gives you relative numbers,” Wiggers said. “The researchers knows how to read them way better than I can, and I'm waiting until we get a decent dataset. We'll do that side exactly how we normally like to plan for seven days. Then, we're going to listen to the sensor.

“In the year, we'll see how many events they have on that side versus this side.  Then we can look at yield. We want to see if by reducing irrigation, did we keep yields? And do we start looking at putting more sensors out?” 

About the Author(s)

Raney Rapp

Senior Writer, Delta Farm Press

Delta Farm Press Senior Writer

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like