University of Arkansas opens second annual irrigation yield contest

Matt Morris checks flow meter

Matt Morris checks the flow meter measuring water as it enters one of their rice fields. The Morrises of Carlisle, Arkansas, won the inaugural More Crop per Drop, rice category, in 2018 — photo by Vicky Boyd

The 2019 Arkansas irrigation yield contest, “Most Crop per Drop,” is open for entries.

“We are conducting a conservation yield competition measuring yield and water use for rice, soybeans and corn,” says Chris Henry, University of Arkansas associate professor.

The contest is meant to encourage irrigation best management practices, such as computerized hole selection, sensor based irrigation scheduling and surge valve use, alternate wetting/drying rice irrigation and practices that lead to higher water use efficiency.

The contest is open to any grower in Arkansas.

To register, contact Greg Simpson at 870-673-2661 or 870-243-2604. Participants may also register via email at contest@uark.edu. Download an entry form by clicking here.

Contestants who want to borrow portable meters, surge valves or soil moisture monitoring equipment can contact Simpson or their local Extension office. Meters are also available through conservation district offices and Natural Resource Conservation Service field offices.

Courtesy of the Arkansas Corn and Grain Sorghum Promotion Board and the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board, this year’s prizes for both the corn and soybeans category are:

• First place, $6,000 cash prize

• Second place, $3,000 cash prize

• Third place, $1,000 cash prize.

In the rice category, there is a single first-place prize consisting of a hybrid seed “superbag,” valued at $12,000, donated by RiceTec. The $5,000 second prize in the rice contest is sponsored by the Mars Corp.

First-place winners from all categories will also receive a portable flow meter from McCrometer and a mag insertion meter from Seametrics. In addition, winners will receive a base and soil moisture station from Trellis and sensors, readers and cash from Irrometer.

Contest sponsors include Delta Plastics. Additional sponsorship is being sought.

Contest rules:

1. Must register by June 30.

2. A propeller flow meter must be installed at the riser bonnet in each field.

3. The flow meter must be read and sealed by a University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture contest official before irrigation begins.

4. Entrants must choose a county agent, NRCS agent or other person to supervise harvest.

5. A measured sample area of at least 3 acres must be harvested to qualify.

6. Verifiable yield from scale tickets must be provided at harvest.

7. Minimum yield to win is 200 bushels per acre for corn and rice and 60 bushels per acre for soybeans.

8. The winning flow meter will be tested against a UA Division of Agriculture reference.

9. Yield must be above the county average. Non-irrigated crop fields may not be considered.

10. You may use any irrigation scheduling method you wish. Irrigation must meet crop water demand.

11. Delta Plastics can provide a vendor list for appropriate flow meters.

12. Highest water-use efficiency (bushels harvested per acre-inch of water applied) will determine the winner.

13. Zero-grade fields are currently excluded.

2018 winners

Matt Morris and his father, Richard, who farm near Carlisle, Arkansas, harvested 226 bushels per acre or 7.8 bushels per acre-inch. They applied only 16 acre-inches per acre compared to the average water use in the 2018 rice verification program of 24.6 acre-inches per acre. The winning field was planted to RT7311 Clearfield.

Placing No. 1 in the corn category, Jason Bennett, Bassett, Arkansas, hit 226.9 bushels per acre with a water-use efficiency of 10.55 bushels per acre-inch on just 8.4 acre-inches per acre of irrigation water. Arkansas growers typically average 18.1 acre-inches per acre of irrigation.

Mikey Taylor of Phillips County, Arkansas, topped all soybean growers in 2018 103 bushels per acre with a water use efficiency of 3.92 bushels per acre-inch. He applied a total of 10.3 acre-inches per acre of irrigation. Arkansas farmers typically average 16.3 acre-inches per acre to fully irrigate soybeans.

The University of Arkansas contributed this article.