Irrigation Energy Field Day set in Portageville

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

PORTAGEVILLE, Mo. -- Southeast Missouri farmers continue waiting for Mother Nature to bring more rain. In the meantime, many of them will learn ways to cut down on waste and costs through this week's Irrigation Energy Field Day in Portageville.

Dr. Joe Henggeler, co-organizer of the Field Day, predicts this will be a very high year of energy usage by farmers.

"The rain came (early on) and usually that's a good thing," Henggeler said. "Once the rain stopped, it just got so dry and hot, and the crops had no roots and the farmers really had to start irrigating," said Henggeler, who is also the irrigation scientist for the University of Missouri Delta Research Center in Portageville.

Dr. Van Ayers, co-organizer of the Field Day, agreed.

"It doesn't take very long to use up all the water we received in the spring. This time of year, water usage is extremely high," said Ayers, who's an agriculture and rural development specialist for the for the University of Missouri Extension in Bloomfield, Mo.

Scheduled from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Missouri Delta Center in Portageville, The free, half-day event will feature indoor sessions and outdoor tours. Check-in begins at 7:30 a.m.

Ayers and Henggeler said this Field Day specifically targets the farming public facing escalating fuel prices.

"In the not-so-long-ago days of '$1-dollar diesel,' Missouri irrigators didn't worry about irrigation pumping costs," Henggeler said. "Survey data taken prior to 2004 showed that despite energy source or crop (other than rice), be it watered with a pivot or by gravity, farmers spent less than $10/acre for irrigation energy."

After Hurricane Katrina fossil fuel prices jumped, Henggeler said. The $1-diesel soon reached $4 a gallon, and Missouri irrigators started worrying, he said.

"The way we're paying more for gasoline at the pumps -- it's the same way for the farmers. It's getting harder and harder," Henggeler said about affording higher fuel costs.

Speakers will address methods that farmers can employ to reduce their irrigation energy costs by identifying opportunities for increasing energy efficiency and showing how to conduct energy assessments to calculate energy savings and simple payback.

Besides speakers, Field Day will also include displays from companies involved in the irrigation industry.

"One of the nice things is this trade show that will be held in conjunction with it. We've got half a dozen irrigation companies that will be there," Henggeler said.

One group of vendors with special products capable of reducing irrigation costs are the manufacturers of wireless soil moisture sensing units. These devices can text farmers when it's time to irrigate.

"They send a signal back to a computer and graph the soil moisture profile that's occurred since they installed the sensors. It's a real interest to farmers because this technology has gotten fairly inexpensive," Henggeler said about the wireless soil moisture sensors.

Dr. Ed Barnes of Cotton Inc., which is funding research on wireless sensors in several Cotton Belt states, will be one of the speakers.

At least one company will be local, Henggeler noted. Below Ag Service LLC of Parma has established a company helping to install these systems, he said.

"Now we basically have a doctor in-house rather than having to travel to Memphis, Tenn., or somewhere else for assistance," Henggeler said. "It's on-the-ground farmer talking to farmer."

The Field Day is made possible by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources from a grant to the University of Missouri to provide energy training for farmers from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.

Ayers hosted an irrigation field day 20 years ago at the same site with 200 in attendance. This time event organizers said they expect at least 250 attendees.

"There will be useful information for all farmers in Southeast Missouri," Ayers said.

The catered lunch is also free by using the lunch ticket that can be printed off when pre-registering online or can be purchased on-site for $15. Preregistration is available at http://agebb.missouri.edu/irrigate/bhcon....

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