New Factsheet Instructs Surge Irrigation Practices, How-To

   Experts with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and Mississippi State University have developed a factsheet about surge irrigation, the first of its kind in the south. 
   Surge irrigation is the intermittent application of water used to improve distribution uniformity along a furrow, said Christopher Henry with the Division of Agriculture Rice Research and Extension Center. Henry, along with Jason Krutz, an extension irrigation specialist at Mississippi State University, composed a factsheet about how to properly use surge irrigation. 
   Over the next couple of weeks, growers will continue to lay polypipe in all Arkansas crop regions, to irrigate fields and adapt their plans for surge irrigation to improve their bottom line, Henry said. 
   The purpose of surge irrigation is to irrigate soil without oversaturating it. The technique takes into account the different ways water infiltrates both dry and wet soil. The process reduces the amount of water for crops as much as 27 percent, Henry and Krutz said.
Some southern states, such as Mississippi, have water regulations that limit water use on a given crop in a year, which is why surge irrigation is important, Krutz said. 
   Surge irrigation and the factsheet could have a strong impact on growers in Arkansas and other states, said Michael Hamilton, an irrigation instructor with the Division of Agriculture and an area irrigation specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
   Hamilton said he has seen some growers water their fields in 12-hour sessions, or “sets,” when it should take 24 hours to put the correct volume of water on the field. As a result, a significant amount of that water runs off the crop soil and into an adjacent furrow.
   Surge irrigation will help these growers with soak cycles so that water doesn’t go to waste, and it will increase the time between irrigation events to save water as well, Hamilton said. 
   Surge valves help control the irrigation. A grower can set valves based on his or her knowledge of the field being irrigated and data from the Division of Agriculture fact sheet. There are also moisture sensors that act as feedback mechanisms for adjusting the valves, designed to maximize irrigation effectiveness. 
   Dave Freeze, Greene County Cooperative Extension Service agent, said he found the fact sheet easy to use. Freeze, who helped review the fact sheet during the development process, used it for the first time in June on a 37-acre field at Massey Farms in Walcott. 
   “Some people don’t even know surge irrigation exists,” Freeze said. 
   Others can get frustrated with surge valves because they may not know how they work or how to program them, which is why the factsheet explains the definitions of the surge irrigation lingo and gives step-by-step instructions on how to set valves, Henry said.
   The factsheet can be found on the Division of Agriculture website
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