Making the most of available water — one of farming’s most precious resources — will be the focus of the upcoming Arkansas Irrigation Expo, scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 25 at the Grand Prairie Center in Stuttgart.
The state’s first-ever irrigation expo was initiated by Sloan Hampton, an Arkansas County rice farmer and chairman of the Arkansas County Conservation District, as well as a commissioner for that Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. Hampton said he organized the expo in hopes of providing his fellow farmers with information to make it through a tough economic squeeze.
“The whole water issue has been well-researched, and definitely encourages people to think long-term,” Hampton said. “What’s missing, a lot of times, is how to act in the short-term. I’m a farmer, and I can tell you, most farmers are concerned about how they’re going to make it from this year to next year.”
Hampton said he and his fellow volunteer organizers worked to bring speakers to the expo who could discuss existing techniques and technologies for reducing consumption and making irrigation more effective.
“A lot of this technology has been around for some time, but it’s not used here in Arkansas,” Hampton said. “A lot of this is aimed at how farmers can keep money in their pocket with technology that saves 5-10 percent immediately.”
Mike Daniels, an extension nutrient management and water quality specialist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the State Water Plan update completed in 2014 provided some sobering conclusions about groundwater used for irrigation.
“Agriculture is facing a critical groundwater supply and irrigation issue,” he said. “Agricultural producers such as Sloan Hampton and others have approached members of the Arkansas Conservation Partnership to provide education on how to reduce ground water use. Implementing water conserving practices provides the most immediate way of addressing this issue.”
Presenters at the expo will include experts from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service will be on hand at the Expo to help growers conceptualize the best way to make use of available water, to lower production costs and maximize yield potential.
The event is co-sponsored by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts.
The registration deadline is Feb. 22 and participants can register by emailing Debbie Moreland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign-in at the expo will begin at 8:30 a.m., and will include informational sessions covering water management, remote sensory applications, nutrient management and more. The expo’s final event is scheduled to begin at 3:45 p.m.
There is no charge to attend the expo, and a catfish lunch will be provided to the first 150 registrants. Seating is limited, and those interested in attending should contact their county extension office to register for the event no later than Friday, Feb. 20.