The other day, Mr. Adkins made a presentation for us on irrigation. There are so many different ways for farms to get irrigated. This is a very important topic when in the agricultural industry. Without irrigation crops and soil would be very dry and it would be hard for them to grow. One thing that surprised me was that only 20% of farmlands are irrigated and 40% of the US food source is irrigated. I though that have been a much greater number. Over this was a great presentation and I was very interested. This is a key factor in farming and everyone in the industry should be educated on it.
On October 2, 2019 Mr. James ADKINS spoke to us on irrigation practices across the state of Delaware and how they’ve evolved over time. Mr. ADKINS has a Bachelors degree from the University of Maryland and works at the UD Carvel Research Center and is an Extension Specialist with fruits and vegetables. He also worked with Mr. KEE- the man who brought PictSweet to Delaware along with mechanized pickling. Additionally, Mr. ADKINS works with equipment, technology, and irrigation nationally and internally, as well as handling irrigation on Warrington Farm.
The talk began with a brief history on irrigation in relation to the systems used today. Only 20% of the world’s farmland is irrigated but 40% of the world’s food supply is produced with irrigation. Mr. ADKINS traces irrigations humble beginnings to the Towers of Babylon in Machu Picchu, originally pumped by slaves. Irrigation systems requiring man-power could be found in other ancient civilization throughout the world, as well as animal, wind, and water power.
One of the first methods of irrigation Mr. ADKINS discussed was flood irrigation. Also called gravity/furrow irrigation, it is used when a weir controls the water flow. This type of irrigations works best on heavy (capable of holding a lot of water), mostly level soil where 3-4inches of water is applied per application- Delaware is not level enough to employ this method. In California, however, each farm receives this type of water delivery method 4 times per year with a 4 inch application each time. Siphon tubes are used to run water across a ditch with grated pipe, a system used by 30% of U.S. farms. A canal manager/operator oversees the transfer of water between farms as farmers upstream receive the water, then that tailwater is re-used on the next farm down. Mr. ADKINS tells us that there are stockholders in canal water- reiterating the points made by Mr. KEE about the complicated water rights in California. The Homestead Act and combined with the controversy around who owns what means farmers may not even own the water underneath their property.
After WW2 came the advent of the pressurized sprinkler system. With this system came the second method of irrigation, using hand-moved pipe. This pipe was made from aluminum, originally sourced from scrapyards in Washington and Oregon where airplane manufacture had been done. This system was often used in the western U.S. A variation of this system, side-roll wheeled-pipe, could be hooked to 150-200ft risers underground and can be seen in use in Idaho. This system doesn’t work well with corn.
Another pressurized system, the traveling gun, can be used for corn, soybeans, wheat, and other agronomic crops. This device has the spraying power of 10-20 fire hose in pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure. This force is not evenly applied, however, and the machine itself requires lots of power and fuel, meaning it has negative energy efficiency. This device is often used on sports fields, running 6hours at a time to cover 10acres. It is a poor choice to give water to newly plant, fragile, and shallow rooted crops.
Frank ZYBACH’s center pivot irrigation, uses an anemometer powered by water. The crops it is used on are often planted in circles. Mr. ADKINS showed us examples of it’s use in Nebraska, but it is broadly used, even in largely desert countries like Saudi Arabia. The system is used in Delaware and works well with furrow planted crops.
The greatest percentage of irrigated land exists in Asia, where 68% of the farmland receives water via surface water irrigation like dams and hydroelectric. Half of the 60 million acres of U.S. farmland that are irrigated use flood (surface water) irrigation. Mr. ADKINS informed the class that the first source of irrigation is often surface water before acquirers are sourced for water instead- aquifers require more pressure to pump water and therefore more money. Most of the irrigated farms in Asia are small, encompassing less than 5acres. 90% of India’s freshwater is used for agricultural irrigation compared to 65% of China’s freshwater.
After Asia, America comes in at a mere 17% with it’s irrigated farmland, followed by Europe at 9%, Africa at 5%m and Oceana at 1%. The U.S.’s irrigated farm area expanded rapidly from 1950 to 2000, going from 250 acres to 700 acres, or 280% in 50years. This is staggering, compared to the 10% increase from 2000 to 2010. Despite the more modern methods of irrigation utilized in the U.S., many aquifers are struggling. An example would be the large Oklahoma state high plains aquifer that is being depleted faster than it can naturally recharge- the rivers going through aren’t given the chance to percolate. Globally 15-35% of irrigation withdrawals are projected to be unsustainable. In California, irrigation withdrawals were a mere 19% in 2005, with almond trees allowed to die as irrigation water is diverted to the city for people to drink instead.
In Delaware, 30% of the farmland, or 15, 000 acres is irrigated. In Sussex County Delaware, 50% of the farmland is irrigated. In the older properties of the county, many wells are hand-dug and only go as deep as 40ft, when modern wells are often much deeper. Controversy often arises from citizens believing the neighboring farms center-pivot system is pumping out their drinking water, however this is often incorrect as domestic-use wells are deeper than irrigation wells and often tap into different aquifers because the aquifers are ‘stacked’ underground. Companies like Tidewater and Artesian can capitalize on these water disputes by promising new residents in their brand new developments, ‘fresh, uncontaminated drinking water’. When consumers buy a property they purchase water allocation rights, meaning the cone of influence to off-set their neighbor can’t exceed a foot of their well water.
Irrigation can also give locales on brink of disaster a second chance. In Ken BURNS’ documentary, ‘The Dust Bowl’ an Oklahoma city is irrigated after a lack of rainfall due to climactic change and the farmland is able to be recovered. In Saudi Arabia, 16, 000ft. well are dug to pump acquirers in the desert and increase the countries food security in times of conflict. Water desalinating technology is another expensive method used to bring water to the desert.
Lastly, Mr. ADKINS discussed ways in which aquifers are made more effective and efficient. 1 million gallons of water usage equals 10 households per year, 1.5 Olympic swimming pools, and 100 acres of corn in 1 day during the pollination stage. Much of the water applied to crops can be lost to the soil and air in a process referred to as evapotranspiration,or ET. Mr. ADKINS showed us an image of an old dike system where the aquifer was lined with concrete to prevent water loss from water seeping through the salt rock. He shared an interesting anecdote in which, through his travels, he learned that Idaho kids can ride a raft down the river for 20miles to an overpass for recreation. Certain cultivars, like corn, can use copious amounts of water- anywhere from 20-25inches, or an average of 22 in per year. Crop coefficients can be measured and estimated based on crop and growth stage charts and taking variables like humidity, rainfall, and wind into consideration. Increasingly high temperatures can make irrigation even less effective, as water is lost when plants are under heat stress. In Delaware, the sprinkler, drip, and sub-surface irrigation may require more water usage in sandy soil, but still used less water overall that alternative methods. In New Castle County, specific methods like drip irrigation can be better for the general soil type.
New irrigation technology was shown briefly at the end of the lecture. The Warrington Pivot works via SmartPhone and can be turned on remotely, creating added convenience and reducing the need for travel for farmers. When using the corner system and center pivot, zone control can be employed to adjust the water distribution rates for varying soil types on different plots of land- also known as Variable rate irrigation, or VRI, a small system for an area f low variability can cost $25, 000 as opposed to upwards of $30-$40, 000 for a larger, more complex system. To justify the expense, farmers use a free AGIS soil survey with records dating back to the 1940s to determine the needs of their property. For additional support, farmers can seek the help of a Natural Resource Conservation Specialist. Major soil variability will often occur near rivers and swamps, but any equipment for slight variability is usually used as a research tool, instead of a practical farming expense.
As the lecture lasted right up to the end of class, there was little in the way of closing statements or remarks.
Our class had guest speaker James Adkins speak to us about irrigation systems not only here in the United States, but around the world. I found it very interesting how he went back to how irrigation systems first started and the different types and ways that they are used around the globe. Furthermore, Adkins discussed water use and the different water levels in the ground. This was very intriguing in regards to Delaware agriculture. On my home farm we do not have to use irrigation due to our soil type, whereas, other areas may not have as good of soil. Additionally, I was not aware on the amount of areas that rely solely on ground water which over time may run out. I was not aware that corn requires 22 inches per year of water in order to grow properly, it was something that had never crossed my mind even on our home farm where we grow corn.
James Atkins presented to us how not that much farm land in the world is irrigated but it is being used more often as time goes on. I was very surprised to hear that only 20% of the world’s farmlands are irrigated. There are many different types of ways to irrigate farmlands but they mostly choose to use other watering techniques. From 1950 to 2000 irrigation expanded over 280% but from 2000 to 2010 it only expanded 10%. I am shocked by this because I feel that irrigation would be quite beneficial for farming. Nowadays we see many different types of irrigation on farms such as center pivots and mobile irrigation systems to help farmers be more productive with crop growing.
Water has become one of the most valuable resources in agricultural practices. Irrigation is the controlled application of water to crops at determined intervals. Irrigation aids in growing agricultural crops, and maintain landscapes, and revegetate disturbed soils in dry areas, such as Colorado and California, and during periods of less than average rainfall.
James Adkins emphasized the importance of this water management strategy and even suggested irrigation practices are not new concepts. Many ancient civilizations including the Mayans, and Babylonia, terracing, hanging towers, and planting on hills with step-like plots were the very beginnings of irrigation concepts. The foundations from ancient agricultural practices helped guide us to today.
Adkins expressed that thirty percent of American agricultural utilizes flood irrigation. Flood irrigation is mostly used in the west where three to four inches of water are applied at a time, to be effective, the soils for this application much be heavy unlike some of Delaware’s sandy soils. Thirty percent of Delaware’s land is irrigated equivalent to 150 thousand acres. Following World War II, sprinkler irrigation systems became widespread because aluminum became available to use for things other than aircraft.
On September 25, 2019 Mr. Ed KEE returned and spoke to us once again- this time, on the two number one U.S. states in agricultural production and value- Iowa and California. Mr. KEE also brought props from a nearby grocery store and books that he had written. The groceries would be used to illustrate the breath and scope of the products coming out of each state and the books would be awarded to the students who volunteered answers or thought-provoking questions. Mr. KEE brought a lot of his discussion topics back around to the Delaware overview he gave the class last time, to give context to the numbers related to both states outputs. Prof. ISSAACS also corroborated these facts with his own knowledge of agriculture throughout the talk.
The talk began with am overview of the state of Iowa. The state is flanked by the Missouri and Mississippi rivers with transportation and mills throughout, facilitating the high rate of production, but without the huge population centers nearby like Delaware has. Iowa also has 85% of it’s land in farms, compared to Delaware’s 41%, with 87, 500 farmers spread across 30.5 billion acres, 5 million of which are dedicated to fruit and vegetable production. Farm production generates 92% of the state’s farm income, mostly generated through corn, soy beans, pork, and beef. Iowa usually vies for 1st in soy production with Illinois, but in hog production Iowa reigns supreme, with 11 pork processors across the state, each plant going through 90, 000 hogs a day. Iowa is also the largest producer of table eggs- Delaware’s Puglisi Egg Farm, by comparison, only outputs 90, 000 dozen eggs per day, according to Prof. ISAACS.
Iowa owes its high production output in no small part to its climate and soil. Iowa has a mild growing season, with few 90°F days. The states soil is mainly loess- fine silt & clay particles- deposited via glacier over thousands of years,10-30 thousand yrs. ago. Those soils have a high cation exchange ranging from 10-15- much higher than Delaware’s soils that stay around 1 or 2. Mr. KEE said he’d never encountered a Delaware soil with an exchange rate of 3. Those same soils will only hold around 3-4 inches of water before draining. By contrast, the impressively healthy soils of Iowa run very deep. Mr. KEE cited 1880 records from a farmer who reported prairie grass as high as his head while standing up in his wagon- meaning the roots would run at least so deep. Mr. KEE was then able to confirm by his own first hand account, that Iowa soils do still indeed run quite deep- at least 9ft without hitting a hardpan. Because of this great soil and climate, Iowa land has a steep price- prime land can be $10, 000 or more, with most acreage ranging from $6, 000-$$7, 500. By comparison, Delaware prime acreage tends to be around $6, 000 per acre.
A large part of Iowa’s acreage is used to grow corn an soy beans. But while a large portion of those crops will become animal feed- 40% of the corn produced will go to hogs and cows- an equally large portion will become biofuel. Along with meat production in Iowa, tractors, animal genetics, and seed are major components, but ethanol is definitely a larger part of the agriculture industry.
After September 11, 2001 and the World Trade Center attack, Iowa corn began being used for 15% of the gas blends used today, in order to decrease the nations dependence on oil. These events lead to the passing of the 2006 Ethanol Law supporting its production and use. Mr. KEE and Prof. ISAACS elaborated that while ethanol is not quite as efficient as gasoline alone, it combusts well and stretches oil. It also has the tendency to gum up engines and eat fuel lines, which lead to the creation of additives to make the biofuel work more efficiently and reduce harmful emissions. Another biofuel, soy diesel, smells like popcorn and enhances lubrication, but while it canlower carbon footprints and has less btus per gallon than gasoline, it is only really available for alternative markets. Soy diesel is common in the MidWest, but must be shipped for use here in the East at a higher cost per gallon. Iowa alone is responsible for 25% of the nations exports in ethanol.
Iowa is also home to some pioneers in agriculture. An Iowa company Stine seed, created 40-50years ago, generates 63% of soybean genetics in North & South America. A man named Harry STINE, who became the richest man in Iowa at one time, created the company. Another successful man, Norman E. BORLAUG, father of the Green Revolution in the 1960s and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and World Feed Prize in the 1970s, became a plant pathologist and breeder who came up with high-yield crop variations. These innovators were able to help countries like India and Bangladesh become more self-sufficient as well. The nations government of the time as well as foreign governments over seas acknowledged these accomplishments. Mr. KEE showed us a PowerPoint slide of the Premier of Russia visiting an Illinois field in the ’50s of ’60s to learn more about agricultural production at a time when the Soviet Union needed to increase their food production for their citizens. This government support for its farmers is contrasted by a modern example brought up by classmate, where the current President- whose administration is responsible for aiding farmers as well as securing and reassuring international trade partners- has lessoned the amount of ethanol required in gasoline, which by extension, lessons the demand for corn used to produce it.
Mr. KEE then switched the discussion to the highest-ranking agricultural producer California, whose controversial agricultural legislations revolve mainly around water usage and water rights.
California agriculture is mainly conducted on a prehistoric lakebed and in fertile desert regions that are supplied water via aqueduct and irrigation. A key location among these zones in the Sierra Madras Valley, facing out towards the Pacific ocean it is surrounded by mountains on three sides. The snowfall in theses mountains is gathered each winter to re-fill the states reservoirs and supply the extensive irrigation system that consists mainly of two large aqueducts, one state funded and the other federally funded, that are 30ft. deep, 60ft. wide and run for 300 miles.
The usage of this water goes primarily to the farmers for their fields, after which it flows to Hollywood and Los Angeles for drinking water. In addition to this water, some farmers have water rights for the water under their property- some do not. Because of the Homestead Act and other laws, some farmers pay the rates they would have paid over 100 years ago, while their neighbors rates may be much more exorbitant- the difference between $10/gal and $200/gal. The drama surrounding farmers and their properties has been well-documented in books and movies like, ‘East of Eden’ and, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’. With only 4-10in. of rain per year, the snow harvest is integral to the success of each years crop. Because of the arid climate, diseases and fungi find little success in California.
California grows many varied crops, including lettuce, tomatoes, and enough almonds to cover the state of Delaware! With so many crops to harvest, California has adopted a reliable way to ensure their product makes it to market. In the 1960s a Mexican man names Cesar CHAVEZ, a WW2 U.S. Navy veteran began the United Farm Workers Union– if a worker works over 10 hours, they must be paid time and a half. To avoid the extra expense, farmers will often simply hire more workers. The rules for paying workers vary from state to state, however. Another classmate asked if Delaware farmers were exempt from paying minimum wage. Mr. KEE explained that most workers will not bother to show up if the pay is less than minimum wage, so the market supersedes the written law- farmers can’t afford to be stingy! Farmers will also work with the government H2A program, which works with people from Haiti & Jamaica to guarantee seasonal labor for farmers. This labor guarantee helps generate a larger gross domestic product.
Another California product, tomatoes, have been broadly cultivated and marketed across the U.S..- 95% of tomato products in the U.S. come from the state. Mr. KEE displayed some of the spoils from the aforementioned shopping trip- along with a small package of Iowa bacon were several cans of tomato products, including stewed tomatoes. A machine harvesting process was created to harvest tomatoes regardless of the weather; with equipment that can travel over the relatively dry California soil to handle special varieties of tomatoes with thicker skin and more uniform shapes to handle the rigor of the mechanized process- this machine would be unreliable driving on the often muddy soils in Delaware. This invention coincided with the termination of the Bracero Program in 1964- the program allowed Mexican workers to come in to harvest crops during wartime.
Another mechanical harvesting process Mr. KEE encouraged us to look into was almond harvesting, which involves a machine violently shaking almonds from a tree and then raking and vacuuming them up from the ground.
Mr. KEE concluded his talk by mentioning the Port of Wilmington (Delaware)- purported the second largest port following Antwerp, where Chilean fruit and bananas are received. Mr. KEE lamented about having always wanted to take students to see to port, even though he is now retired, offering up the experience as something for Prof. ISAACS to consider.
Mr. KEE gave the two books to the most vocal students in the class and packed up what I assume was a weeks-worth of breakfast before saying goodbye.
On Wednesday October 2nd James Adkins visited our class to give a lecture about irrigation. He showed us pictures of various irrigation systems used around the world. James showed us that 68 percent of irrigated land in the world is in Asia. Then he began to focus on irrigation in the U.S. and Delaware. 30% of land in Delaware irrigated. for a while he went into detail about the irrigation used in California and how so much water is needed for the entire state. Later he began to talk about the technologies and formulas used to help determine how much water is needed for crops each day. He went into detail about how sunlight and humidity make a large difference on how crops take in water which affects how much water is needed. Another important factor is the soil in which the crops are planted. different soils can take in water at different rates and so they help provide for plants in different ways.
The lecture James Adkins presented, on Wednesday October 2nd, focused on the evolution of irrigation being used in the agriculture field. Apparently, one of the first forms of irrigation was the hanging towers of Babylon. Throughout the history of Ag, the advancement of technology has allowed for all kinds of experiments with irrigation. There have been irrigation systems powered by wind, walking on treadmills, gated pipes, and etc. In other countries, they still to this day use these techniques to make up for the lack of technological advancements. As for modern American society, we have switched over to center pivots and mobile irrigation systems. The percentage of Delaware farmland that is irrigated is 30%; and out of that, only 50% of Sussex county is irrigated.
In oct 2nd, Mr. James Adkins lectured our class about the importance of irrigation in today’s agriculture. Agriculture is all about water, crops cannot survive without water. Therefore, water efficiency is a big concern, especially in the places where are lack of water. There are only 20% of the world’s farmland is irrigated, in the meantime it produces 40% of food supply. Asia has the biggest percentage of irrigation about 68%. In India, 90% of its freshwater is used for agriculture and it cause approximately one‐fifth of the nation’s total electricity consumption. Crops need water, the amount of water used by 100 acres of corn in one day during pollination is 1 million gallons and it equal to the total water use of 10 households in a year. And it is unsustainable. It is pretty a shocking news for me. I have been heard so many appeals like, saving water, remember to close water tap. But compared to agriculture, citizens daily water consumption is not the significant problem of world’s fresh water shortage. It is really a critical issue for agriculture to solve. The improvement in irrigation technology do have advantage for this problem.
James Adkins speech on irrigation was very informative and I had not previously known or thought about the importance of irrigation and how precise it is. The irrigation system itself has changed tremendously over time just like many other technologies. The irrigation systems thousands of years ago was mostly ran off of gravity but today we are able to control and monitor irritation from gps and from the farmers phone. I also found it surprising the amount of water that certain countries dedicate strictly to irrigate their crops. One statistic that stood out to me more than many others was the fact that the United States has 60 million acres of irrigated land. This fact really shocked me because that is such a large amount of land and prior to this I had never thought about where all this water is coming from and how it can affect certain industries and people. With the advances in technology, the amount of water can be extremely controlled and monitored so only the exact amount of water that is needed is sprayed and it also makes sure the spray is even across the crops.
On October 2nd, James Adkins came to our class to talk about the state of irrigation in today’s farming world. Currently, about twenty percent of the world’s farmland is irrigated, and about forty percent of the world’s food supply is from irrigated land. Asia is home to around sixty eight percent of the world’s irrigated land, and this compares to the United States’ claim to about seventeen percent of the world’s irrigated land.
Some different types of irrigation include the flood irrigation, where water flows across the soil where the crop grows by gravity on the surface, drip irrigation, where black tubing is laid across the ground in rows where the crops are and drips water drown to the roots, and central pivot irrigation, where a large machine pivots in a circle and sprays water from multiple hoses. This central pivot technique is seen a lot on farms here in Delaware.
On October 2nd, James Adkins came to our class to discuss irrigation and its importance. Only 20% of the world’s farmland is irrigated and 40% of that provides our food. Asia has the largest percentage of irrigated land at 68%. India uses 90% of its freshwater withdrawals for agriculture while China uses 65% of its freshwater withdrawals for agriculture.
From state to state irrigation and water rights change. For example, the cost of California’s water is likely to be more expensive than the water we have in the east coast. California has more drought than us and so they are more likely to have higher prices for water.
With new technologies, we changed our irrigation systems. We developed aluminum pipes after World War II because we have a lot of aluminum left over from the war. The extra materials were put to good use. Then came the center pivot. The center pivot is easy to use and it provides an even distribution of water across all the crops.
Irrigation is an important part of our agriculture system, so it is best to have the highest quality equipment that provides the most payoff.
It was very interesting to learn about the different types of irrigation. Growing up in Delaware, we mainly see center pivot irrigation. I had no idea there were so many other types of irrigations. I found it astonishing that Asia has the highest percentage of irrigated land, ranking in at about 68% of the land irrigated. That is a huge amount of irrigated land compared to America’s 17%. We also learned that about 15-35% of irrigation withdraws are considered unsustainable. Knowing from previous lectures that about 40% of Delaware is farm land, it was interesting to see that about 30% of that farm land is irrigated. Sussex County is irrigated more due to the more sandy soils.
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!
James Adkins’s opening statement of “while only 20% of the world’s farmland is irrigated, it produces 40% of our food supply” really makes one think about the huge importance of water. India uses 90% of its freshwater supply for agricultural irrigation. That means almost 1/5 of their electricity supply is used just for irrigation. In the United States, almost half of the farmland is irrigated with flood irrigation. Flood irrigation is a method used in ancient cultures and could be considered a very primitive way of irrigation; it uses pipes or ditches to move water through the ground to crops. This method is effective but not efficient nor sustainable. However, 43% of California’s farmland still uses this method rather than drip irrigation. Here in Delaware, 30% of farmland is irrigated. A few popular methods for irrigation would be drip irrigation or center pivot irrigation. Drip irrigation is easy to control and monitor but is hard for large fields. Drip irrigation is best for smaller fields or orchards. In large fields, center pivot irrigation is most commonly used. With center pivot it is harder to control the amount of water and accuracy leading it to a less sustainable and efficient option; research and technology updates help to increase the accuracy of center pivot irrigation. Water, of course, is vital to all living species and it is not a renewable source, so we must figure out how to use it most efficiently and effectively. The technology of irrigation has done just that and will continue to grow and improve.