Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Arkansas producers rewarded for water efficiency

Irrigation Yield Contest promotes irrigation water management practices in rice, corn and soybeans.

U of A System Division of Agriculture

When it comes to the annual Arkansas Irrigation Yield Contest, less is always more.

The annual University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture program — referred to as “Most Crop per Drop” — promotes the use of irrigation management practices and rewards growers who demonstrate the highest water-use efficiency in growing rice, corn and soybeans.

Winners were announced during the 34th annual Arkansas Water and Soil Education Conference in Jonesboro. This year’s top winners share something in common: They’ve all previously won top honors in another crop category. This year, the top three finishers in each crop category received more than $20,000 in cash and prizes from industry sponsors.

Considerable farmer participation

“The contest is an opportunity for farmers to explore their individual aptitude to reduce energy, water use, labor and improve profitability,” said Chris Henry, associate professor and water management engineer for the Division of Agriculture.

Jefferson County producer Chad Render (left), shown here with Lincoln County Extension agent Steven Stone, and Caleb Reaves, is the overall rice winner in the Most Crop per Drop Contest.

Last year, 29 producers from 16 counties throughout the Arkansas Delta competed. Two of the growers entered multiple crops and fields. Each producer — except for flooded rice entries — used at least one irrigation management tool such as computerized hole-selection, multiple-inlet rice irrigation, soil moisture sensors or surge irrigation.

Jefferson County producer Chad Render has competed four years. On his first try, he didn’t place; the following year, he won the corn category after using Delta Plastics’ Pipe Planner program, watermark sensors and cover crops, all of which aid in conservation efforts. Last year, he won the soybean category, and this year, he took top honors in the furrow rice category. He is also the overall winner in the rice division.

“Chad has become comfortable with managing his water and not overwatering,” said Russ Parker, a program associate based at the Rice Research and Extension Center, part of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. “He’s very involved personally in scheduling the irrigation of his fields.”

Impressive prizes awarded

‘Most Crop per Drop’ winners Flooded Rice Winners •	1st place — Karl Garner, 7.66 bushels/inch, Cross County. •	2nd place — Mark Felker, 6.56 bushels/inch, Crittenden County. •	3rd place — Rieves Wallace and John Wallace, 4.57 bushels/inch, Crittenden County. Furrow Rice Winners •	1st place — Chad Render, 7.94 bushels/inch, Jefferson County. •	2nd place — Rieves and John Wallace, 6.38 bushels/inch, Crittenden County. •	3rd place — Matt Morris, 6.22 bushels/inch, Lonoke County. Corn Winners •	1st place — James Wray, 12.43 bushels/inch, Poinsett County. •	2nd place — Heath Donner, 7.23 bushels/inch, Mississippi County. •	3rd place — Terry Smith, 6.11 bushels/inch, Greene County. Soybean winners •	1st place — Cody Fincher, 4.25 bushels/inch, Mississippi County. •	2nd place — Rieves Wallace and John Wallace, 3.65 bushels/inch, Crittenden County. •	3rd place — Karl Garner, 3.57 bushels/inch, Cross County.

Mississippi County producer Cody Fincher, who farms in Dyess, previously won first place in rice last year, and is this year’s soybean winner. He achieved a water-use efficiency of 4.25 bushels per inch — the highest water-use efficiency since the contest began five years ago.

Newcomers Rieves Wallace and his father, John Wallace, of Crittenden County placed in three crop categories: second place in row rice and soybean, and third place in flooded rice.

The overall rice winner received $2,000 and a RiceTec seed credit worth $11,000. The first-place winners in corn and soybeans received $8,000 each; second-place winners, $3,000; and third-place winners, $1,000. 

All winners collectively shared more than $90,000 in cash and equipment prizes provided by RiceTec, the Arkansas Corn and Grain Sorghum Promotion Board, the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board, McCrometer, Seametrics, Delta Plastics, Irrometer, Trellis, FarmLogs, Agsense and CropX.

For information about irrigation and how to get involved with the 2023 Most Crop per Drop contest, visit

Tracy Courage is the director of communications for the Cooperative Extension Service.

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