The Irrigators Association of Minnesota hosted more than 60 people at its annual summer field tour July 29 in Becker, Minn. The event was held in partnership with R.D. Offutt Farms +and the University of Minnesota Extension.
State legislators, agency representatives, congressional staff members, public officials, and IAM and industry members attended the event. The first stop was at an RDO field in Clearwater, Minn., equipped with a top-of-the-line center pivot irrigation system. Tom Heyn, RDO regional manager, joined Trisha Mitzel, Prospera territory manager, to demonstrate irrigation features at the RDO field.
Heyn said Aqua Trac provides soil moisture data, the Valley Scheduling program recommends where, when and how much to irrigate and new camera technology collects and analyzes all kinds of data — right down to detecting Colorado potato beetles or other problematic issues that could affect potato plants.
“We can monitor and operate our irrigators from our smartphones, and adjust as needed with changing weather conditions,” Heyn said. “All in all, new irrigation technology is allowing us to make smarter decisions to precisely water and care for our crop.”
Next was a stop at the University of Minnesota Sand Plain Research Farm, where U-MN Extension scientist Vasudha Sharma presented research studies on precision irrigation and nitrogen management for enhancing water and nitrogen use efficiency. In the study’s third year, the project aims at building research and Extension capacity to provide science-based data on the integrated precision irrigation and nitrogen solutions.
“This research could help to increase on-farm profitability and reduce the environmental impact of irrigated agriculture in Minnesota,” Sharma said.
Ag issues update, new irrigation model
Participants concluded the field tour by heading back to the RDO Becker Farm for lunch, where they heard an update on statewide agricultural issues from Thom Petersen, Minnesota Department of Agriculture commissioner, as well as the economics behind irrigated agriculture from Rett Landers, strategic sourcing manager from Chaska-based Michaels Foods.
Members from Central Lakes College brought the AgCentric Trailer and a new irrigation model for participants to experience.
Jake Wildman, IAM president, said the event went well, and he heard positive feedback.
“As irrigators, it’s important to share our story, so policymakers and members of the public better understand how precise technology has become,” Wildman said. “Between last year’s drought and this year’s increasingly dry summer, irrigation is more critical than ever as Minnesota farmers are meeting the country’s food production needs.”