By pivot, furrow or flood, may the best farmer win. The race for savings and sustainability is on in Arkansas with Crop per Drop, a first-of-its-kind competition measuring bushels and water use by adding a flow meter and rainfall to yield numbers. Pared down, the grower with the most yield and least water takes the prize.
Crop per Drop, or the 2018 Arkansas Rice and Row Crop Irrigation Yield Contest, is open to corn, rice and soybean growers. Basic rules: 30 acres of irrigated ground; 3 acres of skip-patterned harvest; and a maximum of one active metered water inlet. Each of the three winners will receive cash and prizes valued at approximately $20,500, provided by the Arkansas Corn and Grain Sorghum Promotion Board (ACGSPB), Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board, and Ricetec.
Crop per Drop is the brainchild of Chris Henry, water management engineer at the University of Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center (RREC) in Stuttgart. Extension irrigation research demonstrations can often cost $20,000-plus over the course of a season, packed with heavy labor and a slow pace. Henry believes an irrigation contest with practical value for growers equates to research fields across the state. “Maximum yield is easy; try doing it with just the right amount of irrigation. So many great growers try so hard to squeeze everything they can out of a field and we want to channel that focus with this contest.”
Entry deadline is June 1 and costs $100. (See here for contest rules.) Regardless of irrigation set-up, a portable flow meter is required to measure water use. (Flow meters are available at Extension offices on a first come, first serve basis.) In addition, adjusted rainfall will be added to water use by a judging panel. Zero-grade rice, which carries a pragmatic advantage, is excluded from the contest.
Henry’s team will mark and seal all flow meters to prevent tampering, and check competition sites in-season. Winners will have the highest bushel yields per acre inch of water. “For example, if a grower hits 98 bushel soybeans and uses 24 acre inches of water, then his score will be 4 bushels per inch of water,” Henry explains.
Although Tommy Young, past president of ACGSPB and co-owner with his nephews Blake and Jim Young of Young’s Irrigation & Equipment in Tuckerman, Arkansas, isn’t eligible for Crop per Drop, the Jackson County grower is excited and highly enthusiastic over the contest’s implications: “We’ve got so much new irrigation technology available to growers and this contest is a way to show the dramatic savings available, while saving natural resources at the same time. This can really raise the flag and show people how to save money and water.”
In his 30th year as a T&L Center Pivot Irrigation Dealer, Young says Henry’s approach with Crop per Drop is spot-on. “Chris has seriously heightened awareness of technology and efficiency in our state. That’s why boards contribute financially because they know Chris uses resources very wisely. I’m talking about consistent meaningful research that we can put into play on our farms.”
All Crop per Drop totals will be kept under wraps and announced at the Arkansas Soil and Water Conference, Jan. 19, 2019. Henry emphasizes the long-term benefits of the new contest: “Even if you don’t win, this is going to challenge what you think about how to irrigate. Use all the tools available and your field may yield the same as the rest of your acreage, but only use half the water.”
$10,000 seed tote credit for first place winner in rice, sponsored by Ricetec
$10,000 cash for the first place winner in corn, sponsored by the Arkansas Corn and Grain Sorghum Promotion Board
$10,000 cash for the first place winner in soybeans, sponsored by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board
For more information, see Crop per Drop.