Auburn University Agriculture Professor Looking to Improve Irrigation in Alabama Farms

Drought has really hurt Alabama farmers.

Part of the problem, not as much irrigation as in other states.

Auburn University scientists are teaming up with farmers to use new information and tools to better manage water.

Only about 20% of Alabama farmland is irrigated.

Compare that to 50% of the farmland in Georgia and 60% in Mississippi.

Until now, most Alabama farmers have depended solely on rain.

But, droughts have taken a toll on harvests in recent years.

So, things are changing.

“The farmers are really eager to really increase efficiency and productivity. So, they realize they need to use the water resource in the best way possible and they can optimize production if they really apply the water when the crop really needs the water,” said Brenda Ortiz, AU Associate Professor at College of Crop, Soil & Environmental Sciences.

Auburn University researchers are helping.

Since groundwater sources are deeper in Alabama, and sometimes harder to get to and pump, Auburn scientists will be working with farmers in South and North Alabama on irrigation techniques and technologies.

“They are looking at not only at the technology but training on how they can best use water for irrigation. They are looking for technology that can allow them to better decide when is the best time to irrigate the crops and at the appropriate rate meaning how much they should irrigate at a particular time,” said Ortiz.

A million dollar grant keeps the project flowing for three years.

They said lessons learned here will help other farmers, down the road.

The project will also teach farmers about irrigation ponds. To store rainfall during winter and use that water for irrigation during the summer.

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