As they increase acreage in drip systems and pipe water to new fields, they try to concentrate controls in as few locations as possible.

“Controllers here are a little more complex than they are in an average West Texas drip field,” McGuire says. “Information is routed to Jeff’s computer and he can pull it up at anytime and check the system. He can turn it on or off from the computer.”

They are also fine-tuning nutrient management through the system. “We can inject nitrogen straight to the roots,” Fowler says. “We can see a response in just a day or two, and we apply over time, as needed.”

“We use precision timing and precision placement of nutrients to thecrops through the tape,” McGuire says. That makes uniform distribution even more important. “When a producer starts using an irrigation system for fertigation, it becomes even more critical to have a proper system design that maximizes uniformity.”

Fowler also will inject trifluralin herbicide through the system to prevent alfalfa roots from clogging the emitters.

Technology doesn’t stop with irrigation installation and management. We plant with the RTK system, too,” Fowler says. “That’s especially important on drip irrigated fields. We also run the chopper with a GPS system.” As it cuts, the system, combined with GreenStar, records moisture, protein level, ADF, NDF, starch and other data.

He has Auto-Steer “without a few of the available bells and whistles. We still do some manual operations. But we can ‘paint’ a field and turn the sprayer on and it turns itself off when it comes to a specified location.”

Fowler says the farm’s goal is to provide as much feed as possible for the growing dairy operation. As he adds more subsurface drip irrigation he’ll concentrate on alfalfa and rotate with corn. “I’d like to get four or five years of alfalfa and then change to corn. I don’t know how well the alfalfa stand will do. We will just have to see.”

 

Also of interest:

Expert: Irrigated crops on the High Plains “all over the map”

Technology advances irrigation and drought management

Increasing number of irrigation wells threatens S. Plains aquifer