From the Ground Up - Monitoring Irrigation Water

When timely rains don’t come, many of the farmers in our area have the ability to irrigate their crops. While that can help them get through some dry spots, it’s not quite as good of a substitute for what Mother Nature provides as you may think. Charles Stichler is a retired agronomist.

“I have seen corn wilting the more water you put on it, because of the amount of salt in the water that’s being applied to the crop.”

Groundwater in our area, though abundant, is noted for its high salinity.

“By failing to properly use irrigation water, or monitor the quality of the water that’s going on the crop, and use techniques that we have to reduce the amount of salinity in the soil, the production level of the crops goes downhill.”

There’s not a simple solution to dealing with the problem.

“Monitor your water both out of the well and in the soil by using soil moisture sensors and pay a lot closer attention to irrigation practices and even farming practices to reduce the amount of evaporation loss from the soil by using reduced tillage, conservation tillage that leaves residue on the soil surface. It’s a whole management soup, if you will, a stew that it takes all of it blended together to make it work properly.”

Stichler maintains that to be successful farming you must have a hands-on work ethic.

“The best thing a farmer can put on his crop is his shadow, gotta be in the field looking, evaluating everything, not driving by in a pickup with the window rolled up and the air conditioner on. You gotta go to the field, with a shovel, and go out there a see what’s happening. My daddy used to tell my brother and I, son, you have to learn to see what you’re looking at.”