An Innovative Irrigation Project to Help Farmers in Alabama

Currently, only 15 percent of the available land for farming in the state of Alabama is irrigated. This is quite low compared to other states such as Georgia at 40 percent and Mississippi at 61 percent. The low figures in Alabama mean that the agricultural sector is dealing with a huge loss of revenue for the state.

Brenda Ortiz, Associate Professor at the Auburn University College of Agriculture’s Department of Crop, Soil & Environmental Sciences, asserted  that many farmers in the state are faced with a dilemma in deciding when and how much to irrigate, leading to a loss in yield potential. As such, numerous farmers in the state consider irrigation as a new practice and hence need support in terms of training, innovating, technology and information for effective decision making. However, this is set to be solved as numerous agencies and institutions have come together with the goal of increasing the practice of irrigation. Their focus is to close the knowledge gap with the other states and at the same time boost the agricultural sector through innovation and research and technology.

Numerous sources of funding have come in handy for the stakeholders in this sector. For instance, in late 2017, $946,684 was given to Auburn from the Conservation and Innovation Program of the Natural Resources and Conservation Service. This was aimed at boosting an irrigation project that constituted better water irrigation practices. Moreover, the project made use of climate information to support water management practices, as most of the state’s rainfall occurs during the non-crop-growing periods.

The project will help to educate farmers on the potential irrigation decisions that can be made from the data collected. Some farms are irrigating only around 35 percent of their cropland and farmers are keen to increase this number as much as possible. Strategies include variable-rate irrigation to focus on the areas that need the most water as well as drip irrigation and soil-sensor technology. Projects will be completed in farms located in Greenbrier, Town Creek and Tanner.

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