Knowing Your Roots

Posts tagged ‘Wisconsin Economy’

Farm Perspectives: Pest Scout helps Reduce Use of Crop Protectants

At Alsum Farms & Produce, our summer weather is finally here and the potatoes are growing fast and are a beautiful thing to see. The reds, whites, and goldens are getting close to row closure and they have started to “hook,” which means they are forming a tuber under the hill. We are seeing marble-sized tubers already and they will be growing fast. Moisture management is critical at this time and we were blessed with a nice rain again this week. The cold wet spring was a problem for the seed pieces, but moisture at this time is a positive as long as we don’t get several inches at one time. We are placing tensiometers in our fields this week to help with monitoring soil moisture. This is one of many ways that we try to make sure we are using best practices to conserve and properly manage our water usage.

Our pest scout position is another valuable tool in our IPM and best practices for potato growing. (more…)

More Food with Less Water

Blog 7

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”.

Wisconsin Farms: An Important Employer

Did you know that Wisconsin farms provide jobs for almost 354,000 people? Did you know that those farms also produce more than $59 billion for the Badger State?

While it may seem as if you’re not seeing as many farms as you once used to while driving across Wisconsin’s beautiful landscapes, keep in mind that nowadays, some farms have more acreage than they once used to. Years ago, farms were considered large if they had hundreds of acres. But today, many farms have thousands of acres, and some even tens of thousands.

Wisconsin Agriculture

(Courtesy: Pierce Co. Herald)

So what does that growth mean for today’s agricultural industry? First of all, it means a greater responsibility for the farmers that work that acreage to meet consumer demands. Second of all, it means more available jobs and the need for new hires to fill them. For instance, some positions that farms are adding are workers to help run the harvesting and planting equipment. They’re also hiring scientists to do product research right on the farm, which helps ensure product quality. And let’s not forget all the people needed for their expertise inside the office! With more acreage comes the need for more employees to answer the phones, manage financial accounts and oversee other employees as managers.

And if we take it one step further, some of these farms may even choose to add a washing or packaging facility with their increased acreage. If and when that happens, there are additional employee opportunities.

And the bottom line is that all this is great for the local and national economy!

So the next time you see a Wisconsin farm, consider all the changes that farm may have experienced the past few decades, and how those farmers are working as hard as ever to put food on your table!

Tag Cloud