Cotton Links

- Q & A -

SE Producers Aware Of
Irrigation’s Impact


EDITOR’S NOTE – In a recent interview with Cotton Farming magazine, Calvin Perry, superintendent of the University of Georgia’s C.M. Stripling Irrigation Research Park in Tifton, discusses how Southeast cotton producers have become more aware of water conservation and effective irrigation practices.

Are you encouraged that producers across the Belt have a greater appreciation for water conservation and efficient irrigation in cotton production today?

It is encouraging that cotton producers are learning to be as efficient as possible with such a vital resource. We’ve all learned that even in the Southeast, our water resources are usually abundant but not unlimited. The droughts of the recent past have made that very clear to producers.

Do you think drip irrigation will ever be as popular in the Southeast as it is in other regions, such as Texas?

Overhead sprinkler irrigation (primarily center pivot) is the overwhelming choice for most producers in the Southeast. But, increases in irrigated acres will likely occur in field areas that aren’t well suited to center pivots (irregular field shapes). In these cases, drip irrigation may be given a strong look by producers. But overall, it is doubtful that drip irrigation will be as widespread as center pivot systems. Our knowledge base on using drip irrigation in Southeast row crops like cotton is also less developed – but we’re working on that.

What does the future bode for cotton producers as they evaluate water availability in their irrigation systems?

I once heard a colleague make the comment in a presentation that there are three limiting factors in Georgia crop production – water, water and water. Water availability for agriculture will continue to be of utmost importance to the economic vitality of rural economies in the Southeast. I’m excited to be a part of efforts to help cotton producers understand how to better manage their irrigation systems by using new technologies for measuring soil water status, applying water more efficiently and scheduling more effectively.

Can a cotton producer in Georgia learn anything from a Texas producer in the area of effective irrigation?

Many Texas producers operate in a more arid environment, which is often affected by limited water resources. Texas producers are very concerned about evaporative losses and timely, efficient application of irrigation water. Producers in Georgia are, for the most part, blessed with abundant (but not unlimited) water resources in a humid environment (less evaporative losses).

With pressure from growing populations, persistent droughts and increasing demands from industry and agriculture, Georgia producers are paying closer attention to the types of water conservation measures that Texas producers and other arid regions are accustomed to using. Plus, the ongoing “water wars” between Georgia, Florida and Alabama, coupled with the start of real statewide water planning in Georgia, mean that our use of water in agriculture is on folks’ minds.

Recent research in irrigation has been pretty exciting. Are there other things we can can look forward to in the areas of Low Energy Precision Application (LEPA), drip, deficit or furrow irrigation?

Producers are indicating to us researchers that there is definite interest in using drip irrigation in the Southeast. We are responding by working with great folks like Cotton Incorporated and the Georgia Cotton Commission to develop projects that will expand our knowledge base of practices like drip irrigation. We certainly have more to learn in terms of system design, installation and operation/management.

Contact Calvin Perry in Tifton, Ga., at perrycd@uga.edu or (229) 386-3377.

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