Monday, June 15, 2015

Feeding the World and Increasing Yield 60 Percent

Irrigation: A Key Role in Feeding the World

Today’s farmers are charged with the immense undertaking of providing food for an ever-growing world population. And many have to perform under the pressure of restrictions to conserve land and water.

It’s a substantial responsibility, and one that people outside the agricultural community don’t often consider.

With forecast stats like these, irrigation is clearly part of the solution. Without it, growing the volume of food the world needs will prove challenging. Just ask John Schuerman.

Schuerman has been working on his family farm near Seymour, Ind., since he was 14 years old. He’s not new to farming, but he is new to center pivot irrigation. In fact, he is one of the first in the area to implement it.

He worked with Andy Wolka of B&W Agri Products in Seymour to install his first two Valley® center pivots last spring and installed two more in the fall.

Wolka says he’s encouraging new irrigators to start watering conservatively.

“We know water will be at a premium, even in places that have plenty now, so we want to do this right and start out with conservation in mind,” he explains.

Schuerman didn’t get his pivots in until after the growing season started, and there were three weeks of dry weather before the pivots were up and running.

“On my irrigated land, I brought in 200 bushels of corn per acre,” says Schuerman. “On the land I didn’t irrigate, I had 120 to 125 bushels. Even starting late, I saw a tremendous gain with my difference in yield. I can’t wait to see what happens when I’m able to irrigate for a full growing season.”

That’s a yield increase of more than 60 percent. Results like Schuerman’s will be crucial in the future, since the latest projections indicate that agricultural production must grow by 70 percent by 2050 in order to feed an additional 2.3 billion people.1

“It’s a whole lot better than crop insurance, I can tell you that,” Schuerman says. “If bad times hit, irrigation can help a lot.

“I can see more and more people advancing to pivot irrigation because we need to produce more crops on the same amount of land. Irrigation is one of the only means to do just that.”

While organizations, corporations and government entities are researching ways to increase food production, in the end, it will be up to growers to make it happen. Examples like this further prove that irrigating is more productive than dryland farming, and that irrigation could make all the difference in feeding the growing population.

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UN FAO)2:

• The world population is projected to increase 40 percent by 2050

• Only 20 percent of the world’s croplands are irrigated and that cropland yields 40 percent of the global harvest

• Irrigated farms can produce 100 to 400 percent higher yields for most crops

• Center pivot and linear irrigation are consistently at the top of efficient methods
of delivering water, reaching 95 percent efficiency or greater, depending on sprinkler package design, irrigation scheduling and agronomic practices

1 2050: Increased investment in agricultural research essential.
2 Food for all – World food summit – Agricultural machinery worldwide.

Reprinted from Valley PivotPoint magazine, Spring 2015