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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How Do Farmers Use Water?

When you think of water, what do you think of? Maybe you think of a refreshing drink on a hot day. Maybe you think of irrigating your lawn. Maybe you think of a farmer irrigating their crops. One thing that is certain is that water is an important resource that needs to be preserved.

Corn sprouting

So you may be wondering to yourself just where the water goes that is used by so many people world-wide. According to the United Nations, food production uses approximately 70% of the world's fresh water supply while 20% is for industry use and the other for 10% domestic use. With water being a hot-button issue these days to both consumers and agricultural producers, I wanted to take this time to explain some ways that producers are efficiently using water to combat climate change and a growing population.

Ear of corn in a cornfield

Drip irrigation allows a producer to place water at the top of the soil or on the roots of a plant. The irrigation system accomplishes this by setting up a network of tubing, valves and emitters that manage how much water is dispersed to plants. This minimizes water runoff and increases efficiency to help producers better allocate their use of water. Traditional systems are operated by gravity, but some systems have become solar powered.

Drought tolerant seeds enable farmers to grow crops in areas that may have a very limited water supply. This has been achieved through the identification of a gene in a specific crop's genome being mapped out over time. As more of the genes are being identified among various crops, the potential for increases in yields and decreases in resource use such as water bring monumental economic and environmental benefits to producers.
Farmer working in his field

Rotational grazing systems make it possible for livestock producers to alternate the grazing ranges for their animals. This practice allows the ground and soil to recover from the animal hooves breaking up the soil. Through this system, organic matter is returned back into the soil while also reducing water runoff. With organic matter being returned to the soil there is increased water holding capacity for crop production if the producer chooses to return that ground to crop production in the future.

If you are interested in learning more about these techniques, or others, I strongly encourage you to check out this link that discusses water conservation efforts in farming and gardening.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, send them my way. I would love to hear them!

Signing off,
Wyatt Pracht

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