Fact sheet helps demystify surge irrigation

surge irrigation
Surge irrigation can save as much as 27 percent water—photo courtesy Mississippi State University

Although surge irrigation can improve irrigation and ultimately improve your bottom line, programming the surge units may not be the easiest thing.

The University of Arkansas has taken some of the mystery out of that with a new fact sheet available for free download that translates some of the lingo.

Surge irrigation involves irrigating one block before saturation and then automatically switching to another block. The technique, promoted by the University of Arkansas and Mississippi State University, can reduce the amount of irrigation by up to 27 percent, according to a University of Arkansas news release.

The technique, which also uses polytubing, takes into account the different ways water infiltrates both dry and wet soils.

Some southern states, such as Mississippi, have water regulations that limit water use on a given crop during the season.

Surge irrigation helps with soak cycles so that water doesn’t go to waste, and it will increase the time between irrigations to save water as well, says Mike Hamilton, a University of Arkansas irrigation instructor.

A grower can set valves based on his or her knowledge of the field being irrigated and data from the 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,Ark., Cooperative Extension Service agent, says he found the fact sheet easy to use. Freeze, who helped review the handout 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 says.

Others can get frustrated with surge valves because they may not know how they work or how to program them, which is why the fact sheet explains the definitions of surge irrigation lingo and gives step-by-step instructions on how to set valves.

The fact sheet can be found on the University of Arkansas website.

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