Danny Sosebee, with Netafim, says farmers who use irrigation make a mistake with either answer.

“Don’t look at the container, look at the water,” he said during an irrigation seminar at the recent Texas Produce Convention at South Padre Island.

The most sophisticated irrigation technology in the world, he said, does little good if growers neglect basic crop management techniques. The point is that the water carrier will not perform to specifications if growers mismanage other aspects of production.

“Before a producer decides to add more technology to his operation he needs to ask a lot of questions,” Sosebee said. “Does he log on? Does he soil test, use hybrid seeds, take advantage of a global positioning system, fertilize correctly, apply chemicals properly, maintain water quality, check for pests and use a palm pilot?

“If a growers is not taking care of all these chores, new technology may not be the answer he’s looking for. The first thing any producer must address is the factors limiting production and efficiency.”

New technology comes and goes, he said, but basic management should be constant.

“Also, consider who will run the technology. That’s a crucial management concern. Whoever is responsible must know what he is doing. We always face a learning curve with new technology.”

Sosebee said growers must commit adequate resources to support technology, too. “With drip irrigation, for example, growers can use hand-held moisture readers to dial in computerized daily reports. In some cases, producers with limited irrigation technology want to move soil monitors around, but they need to stay put (to be most effective).”

He said farmers should challenge companies to develop better equipment and varieties with decreased moisture demands. We’re also behind with chemicals to go through irrigation systems.”

He said the industry offers substantial technology with efficient irrigation systems, monitors and other devices. “But growers should do their homework and take care of the basics to take full advantage of technology.

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com