Ed Barnes bristles when someone criticizes cotton farmers for using too much water.

Barnes, the director of agricultural and environmental research for Cotton Incorporated, says he used to respond, defensively, that only 36 percent of the cotton grown in the United States is irrigated.

“That might make it sound like irrigation is a bad thing, and it’s not,” he told consultants attending Cotton Incorporated’s Crop Management Seminar in Tunica, Miss. “So now I’m trying to get the message out that irrigation is part of a sustainable production system.”

Once farmers put down their planting seed and their starter fertilizer, and it doesn’t rain, he said, “that’s not a very good environmental impact and that’s not a very good use of land resources. So irrigation gives us that stability and prevents us from wasting all the other inputs that we invest in early in the season.”

Barnes was the moderator for the Precision Irrigation Workshop that followed the biennial Crop Management Seminar that Cotton Incorporated has organized for crop consultants and other ag professionals in recent years.

He also introduced a new book titled “Cotton Irrigation Management for Humid Regions,” a Cotton Incorporated publication that provides information on many aspects of irrigation, including getting the “most crop per drop.”

Besides helping growers stabilize yields, the precision management techniques included in the book are aimed at helping conserve water and prepare for the possibility of increased regulation of water use.