Producers face difficult decisions day in and day out. Alabama Cooperative Extension System professionals have compiled information to help farmers consider all options when deciding whether to purchase and install irrigation equipment on the farm.
Dr. Brittney Goodrich, an Alabama Extension economist, said irrigation can mitigate one of the largest risks in crop production.
Center pivot irrigation investment and operating costs vary substantially across locations based on access to water and electricity, size and elevation of the field and other factors. The three scenarios explored by Extension professionals can be used as guides for investment decisions.
Goodrich, who is also an assistant professor in the Auburn University College of Agriculture’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, said it is important to keep in mind that each field should be individually evaluated to determine the suitable design and components of the irrigation system.
Dr. Brenda Ortiz, an Alabama Extension precision agriculture specialist, said a thorough report with information about involved costs of irrigation is important.
“As Alabama farmers prepare to submit applications to the new Alabama Irrigation Initiative cost-share program sponsored by the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee a better understanding of the costs involved in irrigation investment is necessary,” Ortiz said.
Factors to Consider
Two factors causing some of the largest variations in irrigation investment costs are access to surface water and electricity.
Some producers may choose to dig a well, but well digging may cost $30,000 to $60,000. A field’s distance from the electric grid can also significantly affect the initial costs of irrigation. The further a field lies from the grid, the more expensive it will be to run power.
Ortiz, who is also an associate professor in the Auburn University College of Agriculture’s Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Science, said researchers recognize the groundwater aquifers in Alabama are not as shallow as in Georgia, so this has been one of the limiting factors to irrigation adoption in the state.
“Farmers can build irrigation ponds to store surface water during winter months and use it for irrigation during the summer,” Ortiz said. “We are currently demonstrating the benefits of irrigation ponds, soil sensors for irrigation scheduling and variable rate irrigation at several fields in Lawrence, Limestone and Geneva counties.”
Producers considering implementing center pivot irrigation may benefit from the irrigation scenario descriptions found in the publication developed by Extension professionals.
For more information about these on-farm demonstrations, contact Dr. Brenda Ortiz at firstname.lastname@example.org.