Pike extension office to offer irrigation summit video conference

Published 11:00 pm Friday, August 10, 2012

To encourage farmers to be more aware of the need for and benefits of irrigation, an Irrigation Summit will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industry’s Building at 1445 Federal Drive in Montgomery on Aug. 15.

For the convenience of those who won’t be able to travel to Montgomery, the Pike County Extension Office will be a host site for the Summit.

“We realize that there are those who won’t be able to make the trip to Montgomery so we wanted to offer the opportunity to view the Summit live via video conference at the Pike County Extension office,” said Grant Lyons, Pike County Extension coordinator.

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For more information, call 334-566-0985.

It is helpful but not necessary to pre-register for the conference, Lyons said.

The Irrigation Summit will highlight Alabama agriculture’s story of irony and missed opportunities.

“Sixty years ago, an edition of ‘Farm and Ranch’ reported the story of a Tennessee Valley farmer who could have made a hefty yield if only he had irrigated his crop,” Lyons said. “He was located near the Tennessee River and could have easily irrigated but he didn’t. He ended up reaping only a third of the yield he expected.”

Lyons said that over the years following, few farmers have heeded the call to irrigate, despite the immense advantages of irrigation.

“The Irrigation Summit is an opportunity to bring farmers, policy makers and water-use experts together to explore irrigation’s immense potential, not only to enhance the state’s agricultural output but also to revitalize the state’s declining rural communities,” Lyons said.

Dr. Sam Fowler, head of Auburn University’s Environmental Institute, is spearheading the meeting, which he hopes will lead to a comprehensive strategy for the widespread adoption of irrigation practices, Lyons said.

The Summit will also provide farmers with information about how the state’s new income tax credit can be used to adopt irrigation technologies and practices.

“Dr. Fowler said that Alabama farming has no time to waste,” Lyons said. “Alabama receives about 55 inches of rainfall annually and row crop production has declined by millions of acres in the last half century.”

Lyons said the state’s rural localities have also suffered from the decline.

While row-crop farming typically generates an estimated $500 to $900 an acre each year within rural economies, the timber farming and conservation set-asides that have replaced it in many rural localities within the last 50 years generate less than $100 an acre.

“And, Alabama has fewer than120,000 acres of row crop irrigation, while Georgia and Mississippi each have well over a million acres under irrigation,” Lyons said. “With similar levels of irrigation, water-use experts believe that Alabama could compete favorably with regions of the country most prized for their agricultural output.”