Tag Archives: irrigation

Today’s Irrigation

I found this guest lecture by James Adkins especially interesting and educational. I learned a lot from this lecture. James presented to us that irrigation has been around for thousands of years, relating back to the Egyptians using the Nile River to irrigate their crops. He then went on to give an overview of the different types of irrigation practices: surface irrigation, localized irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, and sub irrigation. It was really interesting to see how much thought and science went behind irrigation practices and how monitored and controlled it is. He explained available water holding capacities based on soil types and that the soil types local to our area are mostly sandy loam  which can hold 0.11-0.15 inches of water per inch of soil, which, you can test for this level of moisture with various technologies like the Field Scout. Advancements and research in irrigation practices are so important with the threat of water scarcity and James Adkins reassured us that a lot of thought goes into how much and how often crops get irrigated. He explained the growth cycle of corn and how it requires different levels of moisture throughout its life cycle and how farmers have a rhyme and reason behind how much they irrigate. Irrigation is so important to agricultural production and I look forward to seeing what new technology they come out with next!

Guest Lecture: James Adkins

After a few minor setbacks early in the semester regarding James Adkins he was finally able to come in and talk with us about agricultural irrigation in November. James Adkins works at the UD Carvel Research center with a focus in the technology surrounding irrigation. We received a brief rundown of his personal history and then an extensive lecture regarding many aspects of agricultural irrigation – how it was done in the past and how its changed, scientific advancements, several types of irrigation (center pivot, flood/furrow irrigation, drip irrigation, etc.) and much more. What continues to surprise me is how advanced farming is today. Irrigation systems can be programmed to water certain areas with more or less water depending on the plant’s needs, it can monitor the exact amount of fertilizers/pesticides that might be used, and can maximize water efficiency in an agricultural setting. As time goes on, water is becoming more and more of a scarce resource is many parts of the world, which means that James Adkins may have one of the most important jobs to face our future.

Water is Key!

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!

Importance of Irrigation

While most people may be driving down the road and use the spraying irrigation as a car wash, they may not realize the importance of irrigation to agriculture. Mr. James Adkins spoke to the class about the different systems of irrigation especially in different climates and places around the world. He started by showing us how irrigation has changed overtime and how new advancements have made irrigation much more successful. He even gave us a very important tip of not parking our cars in the wheel track of irrigation unless we want a crushed car.

I found it very fascinating when Mr. Adkins explained how 1 million gallons of water is used by 100 acres of corn in one day during pollination. One day!!!! This shows how important water is to agriculture. Irrigation has a huge impact especially in Delaware since our soils do not hold as much water.

Trip to Fifers

Last Saturday, I took a trip to Fifers Orchard. I was thoroughly impressed at the size of their production. I had been previously under the impression that Fifers was a small little produce stand with only a couple acres of land. I very much enjoyed seeing the different types of crops they grew and I was very surprised to learn that their were many different types of one specific crop, such as orange, green, and purple cauliflower. Being able to look at the type of distribution center, I was so excited to see how things worked within the company. Speaking to the family members was also extremely interesting because I never realized how important it was that each person had their own specific job and made sure that their job was completed with great competence. I was also interested in the idea that you were able to buy not only fruits and vegetables, but other types of homemade products such as jams, pies, and seasonings. Seeing this type of production system was extremely important to my understanding about how family farms are run and to see them work cohesively and produce the best products for their consumers.

Fifer Orchards

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to tour and see all of the behind scenes of a local orchard and farming operation in Camden, Delaware. While here, Bobby Fifer gave us the run down of their operations, how technology has a played a huge role in production and how produce gets from field to store. It was really interesting to learn about how apples were packaged and shipped off. Bobby said that apples are hand harvested from the field and then brought to the packing warehouse where they are fed through piece of equipment that can sort around 10 apples per second, all based off of a picture that it takes. The apples are then fed to the assembly line where they are packaged into boxes that will be sent all up and down the East Coast. Curt Fifer then chimed in and shared with us some food for thought. With recent storm events, getting their products to the consumers has not only become extremely difficult due to the lack of refrigerated trucks available, but also very expensive – costs more than doubled just to ship a truck load to Florida. It was really interesting learning about about the processing and shipping side of their operations. Many things that Curt and Bobby discussed and shared were eye opening – a lot of crucial factors to their business are behind scenes that go unnoticed or thought about by the consumer. Fifer Orchards was truly an amazing operation.

Fifer Orchards: A Vast Operation

Saturday, 9/23 our class visited the Fifer Orchard around Dover, DE. On the way there, I was wondering why we did not just go around the corner to see Milburn Orchards; they have apples and awesome apple cider too! It all made sense when we got there though.

Fifer Orchards was huge, and we were given a pamphlet listing all the fruits and vegetables they grew. I never imagined it would be that much. When taken to some vegetable fields, I was surprised that they not only grew traditional cauliflower, but they grew cheddar cauliflower, explained that it had beta-carotene in it, and purple cauliflower because the consumers asked for it!

It was great applying other classes to the field trip as well. Pictured here is drip irrigation in strawberries, which I learned the benefits about in PLSC204!

Of course we ended the trip with a trip to the market; the apple cider slushies were to die for!

It Runs in the Family

When hearing the term, “family farm,” I never imagine anything to the scale or national success that I witnessed at Fifer’s Orchards. Fifer’s Orchards is a fourth generation family farm, starting in the 1900s with 200-300 acres. Since then, the Fifer family has expanded  and developed their orchards into just under 3000 acres of land tilled.

Being from a city in Connecticut, my knowledge of crops basically went as far as the grocery store before coming to the University of Delaware. The opportunity to tour a farm of such magnitude helped to further my knowledge, and I was truly amazed with each thing I learned. Strawberries are one of the main crops grown on Fifer’s land, and they are planted in raised beds. This is to keep the beds up above water that may naturally collect in the field, and the plastic covering surrounding the beds allows better heat conservation and transfer when it is appropriate. Even more interesting is that each bed has a drip tube irrigation system running within it, which allows the plants to receive the water that they need without subjecting the body of the plant to the diseases and pests that can come along with traditional crop watering.   Once these strawberries are mature, they are handpicked, and sent up and down the East Coast.

One of the best things about Fifer’s Orchards is that while they are a million dollar business, they still keep their local community in mind. In fact, on the weekend we visited, Fifer’s was actually having the first weekend of its annual six week Fall Festival. In addition the this festival, Fifer’s Orchards reaches out to and serves the community through the Community Supported Agriculture program they run twice a year. This program allows families and individuals to sign up to receive a weekly box of Fifer’s produce and other locally grown or raised food products. There are pick up locations throughout Delmarva, and the program runs May-Labor Day and November-Christmas. The boxes come in large, small, or customized, and it is a great way to not only get your groceries, but also ensure you’re eating healthy while supporting local businesses!

Fifer Orchards Visit

Fifer Orchards is a local farm and country store located in Camden-Wyoming, DE.  Tilling over 2800 acres Fifers produces a diverse amount of crops along with their biggest profit sweet corn. This past summer I was fortunate enough to work at Fifer Orchards and after the field trip I gained even more respect for the farm and the things they do to benefit the community and the agriculture industry. Throughout the field trip we were taken to several fields and shown many different crops, one of the most interesting was kale which is hand harvested. We were then given a tour of the packing house and cooler and shown the behind the scenes that goes into getting Fifer Orchards produce out to the public. We were lucky enough to visit on the first day of the fall fest so it was a busy Saturday for the Fifer Orchards staff. The farm puts on many events for the community throughout the year such as the strawberry festival, customer appreciation day and the fall fest. Apple cider slushes couldn’t be handed out fast enough to the customers. After working at Fifers over the summer and the field trip I have really seen the hard work that goes into the family business and how hard the family strives to serve the community.

James Atkins Ag. Irrigation Lecture


On 10/26/16 Mr. James Atkins visited our Delaware Agriculture class to give us a guest lecture about agriculture irrigation and its new and growing technologies.  Mr. Atkins showed us different irrigation systems used in today’s agricultural farming practices.  Some of these different systems of irrigation include the traveling gun, shallow surface and subsurface drip irrigation, and the most widely used center pivot system.  He further explained that new technologies have been outfitted on center pivot irrigation systems to increase their efficiency such as zone and variability controlling and even corner arm extension pivot systems.  Zone and variability controlling refers to specific control of each individual water dispensing nozzle on the center pivot irrigation system.  Using variability irrigation, farmers are able to efficiently irrigate their crops without over watering or under watering in specific areas of the field, for example, if the farm is not perfectly level then some crops would get more water than others.  These new technologies greatly increase the precision agriculture for everyday local farmers.  The corner arm extension for the center pivot irrigation system really comes in handy when your farm isn’t a perfect circle.  The extension arm acts as its own pivot system to get those hard to reach areas of your crop field.  James Atkins also showed us new and upcoming forms of agriculture technologies such as the use of drones.  He explained that drones are being used more and more in the agriculture industry for things like scanning and surveying farm lands.  Using drones is another important aspect of becoming a more efficient and accurate farmer when it comes to planting, harvesting, and watering.