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Water savings key to win in Rice Irrigation Contest

Cody Fincher finished first in the University of Arkansas More Crop Per Drop Rice Irrigation Contest for 2020.

Cody Fincher says his primary goal when he entered the University of Arkansas’ More Crop Per Drop Rice Irrigation Contest in 2020 was to see how much water he could save on a field on his farm in Mississippi County, Ark.

Fincher finished first in the contest by producing an average of 8.7 bushels of rice per inch of water that went on the field. The winners of the 2020 contest were announced during the virtual Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference on Jan. 27.

“The biggest thing I did was I managed it more closely; kept my eye on it,” he said. “I think I only turned the well on four times all summer. We caught a couple of rains here and there. Basically I made sure I didn’t lose any water on the bottom end, and I would let the field go as long as it possibly could.

“Had this field not been in the competition I would have started the well a little sooner, but I was trying to go as long as I could before I turned the well back on. I think that was key there. I got lucky and had a pretty good yield (240 bushels per acre). My goal going into it was to save as much water as possible.”

As is often the case with contests, Fincher said he believed field selection helped. “It was leveled on an 0.5-inch grade. And it doesn’t have the best drainage so I knew it would be a good fit for the contest.”

The field, which was cascade-irrigated on a technique similar to alternate-wetting-and-drying or AWD, did not have moisture sensors.

“Cody chose the right field and managed it efficiently in every way,” said Dr. Chris Henry, Extension irrigation specialist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. Henry started the contest four years ago.

Fincher said he got a late start on the contest. “I think we were getting ready to water rice the following week. Mr. Greg (Simpson, irrigation program associate with the University of Arkansas’ Rice Research and Extension Center) came right on out and got me set up.”

By finishing first, Fincher received a Ricetec hybrid seed credit worth $10,000. Seth Tucker in Drew County finished second with an average of 6.7 bushels per acre per inch of water and received $3,000. Finishing third was Clint Boles in Cross County with 6.7 bushels per acre per inch of water. He received $1,000. Tucker harvested 203 bushels per acre and Boles 211 bushels per acre on their fields.

To learn more about irrigation and how to get involved with the 2021 Most Crop Per Drop contest visit www.uaex.edu/irrigation.

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