James Adkins on the Introduction to Irrigation

James Adkins visited the class last week to teach us about different forms of irrigation used for crop production all around the world. He first quizzed us on different topics relating to irrigation. According to one of his “quizzes”, while only 20 percent of the world’s farmland is irrigated, it produces over 40 percent of the planet’s food supply. The different types of irrigation he showed include flood irrigation, where water is distributed across the land naturally, with no pumps involved, this form of irrigation is used on about half of the 60 million acres of irrigated land in the U.S. He also included drip irrigation, and center-pivot irrigation, where equipment rotates around a pivot to water crops. Adkins showed us the historical evolutions of these irrigation systems and how they’ve improved over time as well.

Currently, Asia accounts for 68 percent of the world’s irrigation use, while America only accounts for 17 percent. Specifically, in India, over 90 percent of its freshwater is used for crop production, and one-fifth of the nation’s total electricity goes toward pumping this water for irrigation. From a global perspective, roughly 15 to 35 percent of this irrigation is considered unsustainable.

Lastly, Adkins showed us the new technologies behind irrigation with mapping and NVDI images to confirm a fully-functioning VRI system. As well as monitoring systems that can even be used from the comfort of your own smartphone. Watering crops is definitely more complicated than I thought it was in the past!

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