James Adkins came to us to discuss irrigation practices in agricultural settings. When he said that 20% of the world’s farmland is irrigated, I was surprised. I thought that almost all farmland was irrigated. I was expecting a number closer to 70%.
I immediately understood the pain of the first sprinkler systems where you had to take apart the aluminum poles to move them, and then put them back together in the new area. It didn’t seem fast or easy at all. Putting the same system on wheels so you could just roll them to the next area seemed like a huge improvement, at least from a convenience and headache point of view. What he didn’t talk about much though, in any method of irrigation, was how efficient it was in the amount of water was actually taken up by crops and how much either evaporated or left the rootzone before it could be utilized. I did find it a little shocking when he said that someone can purchase a plot of land and have no rights to the water on the land- be it a river or an underground aquifer. Once I thought about it, it made at least some sense. Water doesn’t listen to arbitrary property boundaries, and anything that happens upstream can greatly impact everything downstream. Farmers must be careful to not overtax the resources they are using in order to protect the health of the land for others and for the future.
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!