Texas: Replacing Irrigation Pivot, Conserving Water on the High Plains

    Landowner Marcus Martinez is getting results conserving water on his farm after working with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to replace a 29 year old center pivot sprinkler system and incorporate additional irrigation water management practices on his farm.

    Marcus Martinez is participating in the EQIP program through the StrikeForce Initiative.

    Martinez depends on the Ogallala Aquifer for irrigation on more than 440 acres, and he knows how critical it is to improve water use efficiency and reduce excess or waste watering from leaks and evaporation on his outdated system.

    In a team effort, the Farm Service Agency and NRCS helped Martinez in the process to apply for StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative funding through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to upgrade his irrigation system.

    Though Martinez has utilized NRCS services in past years, he recently participated in a program specifically for Historically Underserved or Socially Disadvantaged Farmers.

    NRCS Soil Conservationist Monty Powers in Castro County worked with Martinez to help him plan for the new improvements and practices to implement an updated sprinkler system, flowmeter and chemigation check valve to benefit 140 acres.

    The center pivot irrigation system drop nozzles deliver water closer to the soil surface.The sprinkler replacement was approved for a low elevation spray application system known as LESA, designed to reduce evaporation loss with lowered nozzles within 18 inches of the ground and 60 inch nozzle spacing to apply irrigation more uniformly across the field.

    The funding provided Martinez the opportunity to make this change and to help his tenant, Casey Don Russell, improve the technology and management on the farm.

    With a rotational cropping system in place, Russell irrigates corn, cotton, sorghum and some black-eyed peas on half of his field every other year.  Part of his management system includes farming rows in a circular pattern to help hold the water and reduce or eliminate runoff.

    Martinez also applied for the flowmeter and chemigation valve to expand the management options. Russell can monitor the amount of water being applied using the flowmeter, and he can improve water quality using a chemigation valve placed on the sprinkler to assist in protecting ground water. 

    “We are benefiting the soil, plants and water better because we don’t have leaks anymore,” Martinez said.

    Russell has been farming the Martinez land for four years and he admits, “We learned a lot during the drought and it made us think more about using water efficiently.”

    Besides the advancements in water management for the farm, Martinez and Russell agree the conservation tillage methods used on the farm benefit the soil and productivity of the crops.  Crops are planted into high residue stubble to reduce erosion, conserve the moisture in the soil and build organic matter.

    “The stalks help the land,” Martinez said, “to keep it from blowing and it helps the plants grow better.”

    USDA’s StrikeForce Initiative began in 2010 to provide targeted assistance across all areas of USDA agencies to historically underserved areas.  The initiative area expanded this year to includesome of the counties in the Texas High Plains.

    Landowner Marcus Martinez and producer Casey Don Russell examine the fruits of their labors.

    Landowner Marcus Martinez and producer Casey Don Russell examine the fruits of their labors.

    NRCS District Conservationist Chad Warminski reviews plan with landowner Marcus Martinez.

    NRCS District Conservationist Chad Warminski reviews plan with landowner Marcus Martinez.

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