Advantages of drip irrigation apparent in 2011 drought
It's no secret that Texas' driest year on record dealt a tough hand for producers. Agricultural producers across the state saw yields cut in half (or worse) due to Mother Nature's extreme heat, high winds and lack of moisture. However, David Carthel, a Parmer County agricultural producer, found success in using a newly installed drip irrigation system on his 70-acre corn field. Texas Corn Producers followed Carthel's corn field on drip irrigation from planting to harvest, and has documented it in a series of videos, which are now available online at www.watergrowsjobs.org/drip.html.
Carthel realized the need to conserve resources well before tackling the drought-stricken year in order to ensure resources for future crops, while still maintaining or increasing yield. Carthel said drip irrigation was the key to making that happen for his operation.
Carthel knew the greatest hurdle in growing corn with drip irrigation is getting moisture to the seed to initiate growth. With this challenge in mind, he watered his corn field in three separate sections, fully utilizing his water resources in each section to ensure adequate moisture reached the seed. While this created three separate growth stages, it gave Carthel's field the start it needed, and the best chance for survival during the drought through the growing season..
Carthel's corn progressed at a normal pace, while producers with neighboring fields were forced to divert water off crops to concentrate resources elsewhere. Carthel observed this field fared significantly better than his other fields on sprinklers or other irrigation methods. He attributes its success to the drip irrigation's ability to apply moisture directly to where the plant needs it - its root zone, reducing moisture loss to evaporation.
At harvest, Carthel's drip irrigated corn yielded 30 percent better than his fields using alternative irrigation methods.
"I can tell by this year, there won't be a year worse, harder and more challenging than this year to get a crop up," Carthel said, "and my drip proves that you can do it."
Carthel said his success with the drip system on this field initiated him to work with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service to further expand his drip irrigation in his operation. NRCS offers technical assistance to producers in developing conservation plans and helping producers implement irrigation water management practices for the purposes of conserving ground water and improving water quality. Carthel utilized NRCS' Environmental Quality Incentives Program to install his drip irrigation system in 2011.
As a continuation of their Water Grows Jobs campaign, the Texas Corn Producers produced a series of four brief videos following Carthel's drip irrigated corn field from its beginning to harvest. Follow the journey online through the 2011 growing season, where Carthel's corn crop benefited from drip irrigation during the worst drought year on record. To view the videos, and to learn more about drip irrigation, visit www.watergrowsjobs.org/drip.html or go to the Water Grows Jobs YouTube channel.