James Adkins was a guest speaker informing UD students on the irrigation systems and why and how they’re used in agriculture.
So what is an irrigation system?
Irrigation is the application of controlled amounts of water to plants at needed intervals. Irrigation helps to grow agricultural crops, maintain landscapes, and revegetate disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of less than average rainfall.
Types of irrigation systems
-The oldest and most inefficient way of irrigation is flood irrigation. This process channels water into the field that is being irrigated.
-Pivot irrigation was invented after WWII using aluminum pipes. The pivot system allows for a customizable accurate application of water. This type of irrigation is expensive, with each span costing about $11,000.
-Drip irrigation is the most efficient way of irrigation. Drip irrigation puts water right into the soils, minimizing water contact with the plants thus reducing disease risks.
Irrigation is important and without it, we would be unable to sustain and grow the population we currently have. Only 20% of farmland is irrigated which produces over 40% of the worlds food supply comes from irrigated land. Delaware has 30% of its farmland irrigated, about 150,000 acres. Particularly Sussex County has 50% of its farmland irrigated because of the sandy soils. Advancements in technology have allowed irrigation systems to become efficient and better for the environment.
Mr. James Adkins came in to speak to our class about irrigation and how it works, as well as all the different types. He showed us center pivot, sprinkler systems, drip irrigation, and a very other types. He showed us pictures of circular crop fields, and explained that they are that way because of the center pivot irrigation. Some areas of the circle were less green because of inaccurate spraying. Luckily the systems now have the technology to control the amounts of water and nutrients each part of the field is sprayed with. He also showed us a picture of what happens when you part where the wheel of the center pivot irrigation system will drive… the car was crushed. Irrigation is a very interesting and important aspect to agriculture. Mr. Adkins lecture was very informative and I am glad he came in to speak with us. I look forward to learning more about irrigation possibly in the future.
Growing crops isn’t as simple as just watering the whole field every so often and hoping they’ll grow. The soil texture and make up, along with the crop type both play large roles in the frequency and efficiency of watering. Additionally, both of these factors can vary throughout one plot of land that is serviced by the same watering equipment. James Adkins spoke to our class about irrigation, which has developed greatly over time. Center pivot irrigation may be one of the more common types that the community is used to seeing, as they are designed as a giant sprinkler device that has paths to rotate position to reach every part of the field. In addition to center pivot irrigation, there are also a few other types: traveling gun, surface drip, and sub-surface drip. Each type provides different benefits and are best suited for different crops.
The newer technologies available to farmers, which include drones, allow farmers to recognize the different needs of their crops and land in individual areas, rather than just assess as one large plot. For example, the soil may change in the middle of a corn field, causing it to need more water than a different area. A drone is capable of flying above the field and using electro-conductivity mapping to spot weak and strong areas within a crop field! There are also handheld devices that test for soil conditions such as nutrients and water hold capacity that provide immediate results for that specific location within the field. Each of these new irrigation technologies have helped to advance agriculture, making it not only more efficient but also more conservation cautious and environmentally friendly!