Water shortage is one of the most serious issues affecting Arkansas growers.
“Trying to be efficient with that water use is vital, not only because farmers are worried about the resource itself, but also to make sure you’ve got enough water to irrigate next year,” says Ben Noble, executive director of the Arkansas Rice Federation. “Water conservation techniques and increased efficiency is something that the agriculture industry has been working on for decades.”
The Flow of Innovation
Through its H20 Initiative, Arkansas-based Delta Plastics has committed to a 20 percent reduction in irrigation water used in the Mississippi Delta by 2020. The company, also known as the world’s leading manufacturer of irrigation polytube, plans to accomplish this feat by providing its Pipe Planner water management software to farmers at no cost. The web-based software application helps farmers develop the most efficient and effective irrigation system for their fields.
Noble says the challenge with irrigation currently is that not every field is uniform.
“They’re not all a perfect square, and there are other factors that go into it. How fast is the water going through the pipe? How much of a slope do you have on the property?” Noble says. “Farmers can upload data about their farms, and the software uses formulas to literally determine what size hole you should punch in the irrigation pipe depending on where you are in the field.”
Delta Plastics has partnered with the extension offices of the University of Arkansas, Mississippi State University, the University of Missouri and Louisiana State University to educate farmers about the H20 Initiative. In addition, more than a dozen of the state’s leading commodity groups and agriculture organizations have signed on as stakeholders, including Noble’s group, the Arkansas Rice Federation, which hosted Delta Plastics executives at its annual meeting and trade show to share more about the technology and how it can be used within the rice industry.
“I think Pipe Planner is going to be a better option for farmers, especially since they now have access to it for free. I think that’s why you see such a broad stakeholder list of organizations that have signed up. I think that list will continue to grow as farmers learn more about the potential to not only protect their ground water and their water source, but also to save money,” Noble says. “That’s the second component of it – if you’re more efficient with your irrigation, you’ll save money. It’s going to be a good thing all around. It’s a good thing for the environment, and it’s a good thing for your bottom line.”
The State of Sustainability
Delta Plastics believes that if every farmer in the Mississippi Delta uses Pipe Planner to manage their irrigation, they could save more than one trillion gallons of water each year.
“This initiative is the most important conservation effort we have ever launched,” says Dhu Thompson, Delta Plastics chairman. “‘Preserving our farmland’ has been our company slogan for nearly 20 years. But conservation and sustainability is so much more than a slogan for us. It is a principle that has driven every major operational decision that we have made. Delta Plastics is proud to lead an initiative that will revolutionize the way we address water management on the farm. We are even prouder to be working alongside the nation’s most respected leaders in agriculture and conservation to accomplish these goals.”