What is in this article?:
- Subsurface drip irrigation increases alfalfa yields
- Water use is reduced
- Capital investment recovered through improved yield and reduced water use
Steve Maddox Jr. uses the latest technology, including a weather station connected to a subsurface drip irrigation system to water some of his alfalfa in central Fresno County, Calif.
Maddox strongly supports more efficient ways to do business. For example, the dairy is powered almost exclusively by solar. Net metering has reduced power costs to run the dairy to nearly zero.
Irrigation water for the farm is pumped into ponds at night to take advantage of the lower power costs. From the ponds water is moved to the fields through a system of irrigation ditches. Pumping water at night is yet another efficient method Maddox uses to irrigate his crops.
Making the capital investment was not cheap. At about $1,500 per acre, installing Maddox’s SSDI system in his two alfalfa fields cost $99,000.
Maddox hopes to recover about 40 percent of his capital investment in the first year. The system could pay for itself within three years through improved yields and water savings.
Not factored into that calculation is the likelihood of his alfalfa stand lasting longer than the typical four to five years before rotating out to corn or wheat for silage, all of which work together to support the dairy.
Hay quality has not changed with SSDI. Maddox planted a number nine dormancy alfalfa seed. He may switch to a number seven or eight dormancy seed to improve hay quality for the dairy
With the increased alfalfa yield, Maddox may be able to sell some hay, and purchase higher quality dairy hay as necessary for the lactating cows.
Maddox currently uses surface drip irrigation in his almond orchards and wine grape vineyards.
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