Outdated irrigation technology at the Prattville Agricultural Research Unit (PARU) made it almost impossible to generate meaningful data. But thanks to farmer checkoff funds from the Alabama Cotton Commission, the Alabama Soybean Producers and the Wheat and Feed Grains Producers, a flood of new research could be in the forecast.
“More and more of our farms have on-farm irrigation,” said Federation Cotton, Soybeans and Wheat and Feed Grains Divisions Director Carla Hornady. “So for better research that will truly benefit the farmers, farmers chose to use checkoff dollars to help install this irrigation system at the PARU.”
In 2013, the checkoff committees sent PARU Director Don Moore a proposal allocating more than $101,000 for the installation of a water well and an irrigation system.
The two-year project, which allows the unit to conduct more balanced and significant research among cotton, soybeans, corn and other grains, came to fruition late June. Patchy forecasts once hindered productive analyses, Moore said, but the irrigation system will help researchers test effectiveness of varieties of irrigated plants versus non-irrigated crops.
State Wheat and Feed Grains Committee Chairman Stanley Walters said irrigation will help protect the investment farmers make in crop research through the voluntary checkoff program.
“We have funded research in the past without sound results,” Walters said. “This irrigation system will widen the window for success and reduce the gap for failure so we can see experiments to their resolution. Irrigation is going to ensure our research dollars get returns every time.”
During the 2012 crop year, more than half the total research conducted at the PARU was weighted to cotton because it is typically more drought resistant.
“At least three years of field research is required to conduct an accurate statistical analysis,” said Moore. “For research, crop failure interruptions from drought or equipment malfunctions are expensive and time-consuming. This irrigation system will help lessen those interruptions and even the playing field for research.”