What is in this article?:
- Perseverance, efficiency are keys for SW High Cotton winner
- Terraces and waterways
- Water savings
- Eric Seidenberger is farming 2,950 acres — 2,150 in cotton, the rest in wheat, and also grazes Angus cattle on 3,000 acres of pasture. He irrigates 1,225 acres, 1,000 with subsurface drip, has a 125-acre pivot, and furrow waters 100 acres. He plans to put in another 100 acres of drip for the 2011 season.
- He installed his first drip irrigation in 2003, a 45-acre block. He says drip offers three distinct advantages: High Yields, Water use efficiency and Less labor.
Terraces and waterways
The next 100 acres of drip will go on pivot irrigated fields, Seidenberger says. “We’ll maintain some furrow-irrigation in bottom land that’s prone to wash with heavy rains. Some acreage we have to leave out of drip because of potential erosion. We’ve addedterraces and grassed waterways.”
Bottom land and rolling fields are prone to erosion, “So, we need waterways and terraces on 90 percent of our bottom land. We’ve grassed most of our waterways.”
One pivot field has a 19-foot drop from one end to the other, and “We have to maintain erosion control in that field. Before we built waterways, we got a six-inch rain one night that washed out 90 percent of our beds. The field was totally flat. I knew I needed waterways; they’ve made a ton of difference.”
Terraces direct water to one central waterway and into a nearby creek. “Conservation just makes good sense,” he says. “We have a lot of rolling land in the Garden City area and it needs erosion control.”
Seidenberger has adopted other technology to improve efficiency. Transgenic seed play an important role in his production. He plants Phytogen 375 WRF and 440W and FiberMax 9160, 9170 and 1740, all BGII varieties.
“I also plant a test plot for Delta and Pine Land. I’ve done that for 15 years. And I switch varieties every year or two — varieties change fast as they develop new technology.”
Technology also helps maintain an efficient fertility program, Seidenberger says. “Fertility is especially important in drip irrigation. We knife in 200 pounds of 10-34-0-5 to get phosphorus in before planting.”
On dryland, moisture may dictate fertility. “If we have moisture we try to knife in a high nitrogen blend — that’s all it will get.”
Furrow and pivot systems get the same pre-plant fertility as drip, but furrow-irrigated fields don’t get in-season nitrogen applications. “We inject nitrogen through the pivot and drip systems. We’ve used pretty much the same thing for the past six years, but we’re looking at soil samples, accompanied by petiole testing to determine how much to inject. We want to see if we can save a little on fertilizer.”
He’s also considering variable rate application technology to further refine his fertility program. “I’m working with Helena to knife in fertilizer, using a Veris Rig as a base for pre-plant fertility. I want to do more with variable rate application; I’m just getting started.”
He uses some aerial imagery to improve efficiency of plant growth regulatorsand harvest aids with variable rate aerial applications. “Then we’ll add yield monitors and field maps to identify soils that need more fertilizer.”
GPS is crucial
Seidenberger uses global positioning technology to install drip irrigation systems, too. “All my drip tape except the first 45 acres was installedwith the RTK system. We still use that system when we work that field, but we have to adjust for it.”
He uses ECO Drip for subsurface drip irrigation materials and Netafim tape and filters.
He relies on GPS for more than just installing drip tape. “If the RTK goes down while I’m planting a drip-irrigated field, I shut down. We have to be exactly on the row when we pick six rows at a time. It also helps to water precisely when you are right on the tapes.”
Some of Seidenberger’s tape is spaced 80 inches between rows and some is on 40-inch spacing under the row.
“If I were doing it all over, I’d put it all 40 inches under the row. That spacing takes about half as much water and gets moisture to the top easier. I could farm flat with the narrow spaces. But the 40-inch tape spacing is quite a bit more expensive to install because there is more drip tape in the fields.”