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Water savings add up in Irrigation Contest

Soybean water efficiency contest at University of Arkansas rewards growers who farm More Crop per Drop.

Unlike many of the contests growers may enter, participants in the University of Arkansas’ More Crop Per Drop Irrigation Contest aren’t as concerned with crop yields as much as they are applying water more efficiently.

That was the take-home message for Jeremy Weideman, a producer from Clay County, Ark., who won the soybean portion of the contest in 2020C. He spoke during the virtual Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference on Jan. 27.

“We’ve been told we’re overwatering, and I’d say so after what I did this year,” he said, referring to his first-place finish, which earned him a $6,000 cash prize from the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board. “But it’s still a matter of reading the moisture sensors and trusting them and using them to determine when to water.

“Obviously, and Greg (Simpson, irrigation program associate with the University’s Rice Research and Extension Center) stressed this to me from the start: Yield isn’t everything – irrigation is important.”

Weideman used three Watermark moisture sensors installed at depths of 6, 12 and 18 inches in the contest field and checked them regularly to determine when to irrigate. He planted his soybeans June 11 and watered three times in three months, achieving an irrigation efficiency of 4.3 bushels per inch.

“I pushed the irrigation as far as I could,” he said. “We caught some rains, but I waited as long as I could, and I’m amazed I could do that with that little amount of water. I’m encouraged to try that with other fields.

“I’ve proved you can save a lot of water, and that’s what I’m going to use going forward – to try to use less water,” he noted.

Lincoln County producer John Allen McGraw finished second with 4.2 bushels per inch of water per acre, and Ryan Sullivan, who farms with his father, Mike Sullivan; and cousins, Scott and Gavin Sullivan, in Mississippi County, finished third with 4.1 bushels per inch of water.

Weideman averaged 64 bushels per acre in his contest field while McGraw averaged 76 bushels per acre and the Sullivans 99 bushels per acre in their fields.

For more information about irrigation and how to get involved with the 2021 More Crop Per Drop Contest, visit www.uaex.edu/irrigation.

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