Kellogg’s grant to Nature Conservancy helps fund irrigation timers

Kotton Guest

Marvell, Arkansas, rice farmer Kotton Guest programs a new irrigation timer for his rice field water pump, thanks to a grant from Kellogg Co.

As part of Kellogg’s Better Days commitment to support 1 million farmers by the end of 2030, the company is collaborating with The Nature Conservancy to provide efficient water irrigation resources to Arkansas rice farmers.

Thanks to a $165,000 grant from Kellogg, The Nature Conservancy installed irrigation timers on 30 farms to manage water use on approximately 15,000 acres of land mostly in critical groundwater areas in the Mississippi River Delta.

They include farms in eastern Arkansas, western Mississippi and northeast Louisiana, all of which draw from the Mississippi Valley Alluvial Aquifer.

Farmers program the timers on their pumps to irrigate the field and when finished, the timers turn off the pumps automatically, thereby saving water. Nature Conservancy scientists estimate that the timers will conserve 9 billion gallons — roughly 27,600 acre-feet — of water each year.

“It’s very helpful that Kellogg’s is providing these timers,” said Marvell, Arkansas, rice farmer Kotton Guest. “Their support makes it easier for us to use new conservation techniques.”

Flooding fields is an important part of growing rice as it helps to control weeds, reduce soil erosion and maximize crop yields. The Mississippi Valley Alluvial Aquifer— a groundwater source —provides 80% of the water used for rice growing in Arkansas; however, water levels have dropped dramatically due to excessive pumping.

“In many areas across the state, the aquifer has 10% or less water left in it,” said Jason Milks, Delta program director at The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas. “For every minute the timer saves in pumping time, thousands of gallons of critical groundwater are conserved.”

“Farmers are working to grow more food with less resources,” said Mary Gallagher, Kellogg company responsible sourcing manager. “One way Kellogg is supporting farmers is by taking the risk out of trying new practices that can enable more sustainable rice production.”

“I love this land. I love farming, and I love helping to feed people,” Guest said. “If we’re smart, we’ll be able to keep the water — and the rice — flowing for many generations to come.”

This Arkansas rice project is part of Kellogg’s larger “Supporting U.S. Farmers” collaboration with The Nature Conservancy aimed at driving positive results through conservation programs on 255,000 acres of land across Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, and Nebraska.

Kellogg Co. contributed this article.