When it is warm and dry, you have probably noticed that plants require a lot of water to stay healthy, but did you know that only 10% of the water a plant receives actually remains inside of it to support life processes? Plants lose the other 90% of their required water (liquid) as water vapor (gas) to the atmosphere through a process known as evapotranspiration (ET), which is a combination of water the plants emit from pores in their leaves (transpiration) and water that evaporates from soil and plant surfaces. ET uses a tremendous amount of solar energy, and this energy use coupled to the plant water use is referred to as the water-energy cycle of a landscape. When humans alter the composition of plants across a landscape (i.e. urbanization, agriculture), they also alter the water-energy cycle. (more…)
Posts tagged ‘water resources’
Water use is a critical issue in central Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA), as well as its grower members are committed to the judicious use of this most precious resource.
WPVGA formed The Water Task Force in 2009 to bring together resources and expertise to foster the sustainable use of water resources in the Central Sands. The committee was also formed to develop and promote responsible water use practices that will protect the groundwater aquifer of the Central Sands and its associated streams, lakes and wetlands.
The goal of the Wisconsin potato and vegetable growers is to do this in a way that ensures a sustainable agricultural industry for future generations, fosters vibrant rural communities and respects the needs of all its citizens.
The WPVGA Water Task Force has already made remarkable progress in advancing all of its objectives. For example, to increase understanding of the hydrology of the Central Sands, the Task Force has initiated a program to measure groundwater depths in privately-owned irrigation wells across space and time. They have purchased and installed equipment to continuously monitor groundwater in four areas designated as high risk for surface water impacts. They have also commissioned and funded a study by the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey to expand understanding of tunnel channel lakes in high risk areas and their interaction with groundwater–this study has since expanded into a significant modeling project funded by NRCS. (more…)
It’s mid-June already! Summer is officially here and with temperatures in the 80s, it’s hard to think back even a few months and remember that in mid-March we were all wondering if life in the land of living plants was ever going to start again! Imagine if you can, the last 3 weeks of March when we averaged 43 degrees F for a high and a frigid 24 for a low—with snow everywhere to boot. Now, fast forward to June 1st, the last 3 weeks have blessed us with 74 and 51 for the highs and lows! This is surely why we love living in Wisconsin, it’s an adventure!
Our farmers love this climate and thrive on battling the odds and defeating what Mother Nature throws at them. When the remnants of March blew in the Central Sands, the tractors were ready, the potato growers were primed with new knowledge and ideas from their winter meetings, and the sheds were full of healthy seed potatoes ready to be lovingly inserted into that rich soil for another crop year. But a peek outside revealed their fields as a bleak, snow-covered artic landscape with no end in sight. They waited, as farmers do so well, through most of April this year, and their patience was rewarded with a sunny and warm May that brought blossoms to the wind breaks protecting their fields and allowed them to show the world just how good they are at getting close to 50,000 acres of potatoes planted in a few short weeks! (more…)
A new report released by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (Feb 12,2013) stated that power generation and municipal uses account for 85% of total state water use compared with 4% by agriculture. Even in Portage, Adams and Waushara (among the highest use counties), municipal withdraws were higher (42%) than agricultural irrigation (33%). These counties “comprise much of the central sands area of the state known as a globally significant vegetable production region” according to the DNR report; production and processing of specialty crops, which are concentrated in the region, contribute $6.4 billion in economic return to the state and generate almost 35,000 jobs.
In recent years, concern over water use and availability in the region has sparked debate over the impact of climate, irrigation, and municipalities on groundwater resources. While climate is an impact that local growers have no control over, they do have the ability to impact the efficiency of irrigation, especially during the peak use in July and August when crops require the most water. Mike Copas, field manager from Russet Potato Exchange, explains the importance of his irrigation strategy as “a complete approach to conserving the resource by supplying only what the crop needs. We understand the importance of managing our water resources wisely and are utilizing the most advanced technologies to be the most efficient in our usage for our potato and vegetable rotations”.
The majority of growers use center pivot overhead irrigation systems, which are monitored continuously to ensure uniform water distribution, precisely control the amount of water applied, and operated during off peak hours whenever possible to conserve energy demand on the system. To increase the efficiency of these systems, growers are adopting a range of cutting edge technologies including variable-rate precision irrigation, deficit irrigation and drip irrigation. Sophisticated irrigation scheduling programs have been developed and used to precisely match water applied to crop need and thus eliminate waste. However, growers are now pushing the envelope further by mapping the varying soil types and their ability to retain water across fields; water is applied at variable rates according to crop need in a new technology termed, “variable-rate, precision irrigation,” which has been shown to not only save water but increase crop quality.
Additional technologies are also being tested in research funded by the WPVGA that include crop varieties and landscapes that require less water, withholding water during non-critical growth stages (deficit irrigation), and drip irrigation. Together, these innovative approaches make a difference. As Mike Copas concludes, “water management is a complex task, and we use all our tools to manage it as effectively as possible. As a grower and land manager, I want people to know that we are working hard to maintain our water resources. They are an integral part of our farming operation, and to maintain it for the long-term, we will utilize our water correctly”.