Friday, February 3, 2023

Arkansas Soil & Water Education Conference to showcase best practices, new technologies in soil, water conservation

⋅ BY TRACY COURAGE ⋅
University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture

The Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference has been educating Arkansas farmers and other agriculture professionals for a quarter of a century on how to use new technology and practices to improve irrigation efficiency.

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Garrett Turner works on the polypipe in a soybean field at  the Northeast Rice Research and Extension Center. (U of A System Division of Agriculture image)

That precedent continues with the 25th annual Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference on Jan. 25 from 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. at the Red Wolf Convention Center at Embassy Suites, 223 Red Wolf Blvd. in Jonesboro. A virtual option also will be available. Online registration is available at arkswec.com. The cost is $50.

“The Arkansas Soil and Water Educational Conference has always addressed relevant conservation issues facing agriculture,” said Mike Hamilton, extension irrigation instructor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and member of the conference steering committee. “The 25th Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference and Irrigation Expo will highlight irrigation water management strategies, irrigation technologies, and potential funding opportunities for farmers and consultants.”

The conference is designed for agriculture and natural resource management professionals, university researchers and students. Certified crop advisers can qualify for up to 5.5 continuing education units through the conference.

“Attendees have heard from different speakers over the past 25 years of the conference, focusing on soil and water conservation efforts,” said Jan Yingling, White County extension agent for the Division of Agriculture and a member of the conference steering committee. “This year’s line-up of presenters and panelists will showcase ongoing conservation efforts and upcoming conservation opportunities.”

Access to adequate water is crucial for growing crops profitably and sustaining agricultural production in Arkansas. The 2022 drought has underscored the need to conserve and protect water supplies by lowering water usage and decreasing energy usage.

Arkansas ranks third in the nation for the area of irrigated land. It ranks second in the volume of water pumped for irrigation. About 80 percent of the Natural State’s irrigation demand comes from groundwater provided by the Lower Mississippi River Basin, of which only about 48 percent of the annual withdrawl is sustainable.

Researchers and educators with the Division of Agriculture, Arkansas State University, the Natural Resource Conservation Service and USDA Agricultural Research Service are making efforts on multiple fronts to help users make irrigation more efficient. This includes research into new production techniques and irrigation technologies, promoting use of soil moisture sensors, cover crop growth and incentive programs such as Most Crop per Drop, which encourages producers to use these new techniques.

Winners of the Most Crop Per Drop contest will be announced at the conference, and the Conservationist of the Year Award will be presented.

The agenda:

Welcome — Michele Reba – USDA-ARS research hydrologist and acting research leader at the Delta Water Management Research Unit

Remarks  — Mickey Latour; Dean, Arkansas State University College of Agriculture

Improving cotton sustainability and profitability through the use of big data – Chris Delholm, research materials engineer and acting research leader, USDA-ARS Cotton Structure and Quality Research Unit

Controls on nutrient retention and export across spatial and temporal scales in agricultural streams – Dr. Shannon Spier, assistant professor of water quality, University of Arkansas

Regulation of groundwater and aquifers – Catherine Janasie, senior research counsel, National Sea Grant Law Center, University of Mississippi School of Law

Climate smart commodities: Opportunities for the Mid-South – Benjamin Runkle, associate professor of biological & agricultural engineering, University of Arkansas

Past Conservation Successes & Future Opportunities – Amanda Mathis, assistant state conservationist, NRCS

Evaluating Water Availability in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, Arkansas – Laura Ruhl-Whittle, hydrogeologic studies section chief of the Lower Mississippi Gulf Water Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey

A Collaborative Regional Approach to Groundwater Sustainability and Management in the Lower Mississippi Embayment – Joel Riley, hydraulic engineer, US Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District

Lunch speaker — Chris Colclasure, director, Arkansas Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Division

2022 Irrigation Contest Winners – Chris Henry, professor & water management engineer, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Rice Research and Extension Center

$2.8 billion for Growers through USDA Climate Smart Commodities

Project Overviews:

  • Growing Value for Producers
  • AgriCapture Climate-Friendly Rice
  • Rice Stewardship Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities
  • Rural Investment to Protect our Environment (RIPE) Partnership
  • Supreme Rice, LLC’s Climate-Smart Initiative
  • Climate Smart Cotton through a Sustainable & Innovative Supply Chain Approach
  • Developing climate-smart grain markets in the Mid-South

Poster Contest – Jennifer Bouldininterim dean, College of Sciences & Mathematics, Arkansas State University

Awards Presentation — Kevin Cochran, assistant state conservationist-field operations, NRCS


Tracy Courage is Director of Communications at U of A System Division of Agriculture. 

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