Jan. 24 irrigation workshop slated for South Texas growers

WESLACO  –  Squeezing the highest possible agricultural yields and profits amid dwindling water supplies in South Texas will be the focus of an upcoming irrigation workshop, according to personnel at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco.

Dr. Juan Enciso is shown with a surge irrigation system in a row crops field south of Harlingen. (AgriLife Communications photo by Rod Santa Ana)

The Tools, Techniques and Technology for Producers workshop will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Rio Grande Center for Ag Water Efficiency, located adjacent to the Harlingen Irrigation District’s river pump house at the dead end of Trevino Road on the Rio Grande, said Dr. Juan Enciso, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research irrigation engineer.

“There is no address for the Ag Water Efficiency Center, per se,” Enciso said, “but directions on how to get there will be sent with registration confirmation and are also available at www.TexasAWE.org.”

Registration is $15, payable by check or money order only, made payable to the Harlingen Irrigation District, and mailed to 301 E. Pierce Ave., Harlingen, Texas 78550. Registration covers all materials and supplies, refreshments and lunch.

Continuing education units from the Texas Department of Agriculture will be offered for pesticide/herbicide handling training, Enciso said.

“Despite the rain we had in early January, both in northern Mexico and here in the Valley, our water supplies remain low,” Enciso said. “This usually means growers will plant dryland crops such as cotton and grain sorghum, then switch their available water to more profitable crops such as vegetables like onions or watermelons, or corn. This workshop is designed to help them make the best of it, using low- or no-cost irrigation techniques and technologies.”

Scientific research on increasing yields and profits in drought conditions has advanced tremendously the last few years and growers should be up to speed on techniques and technologies that are not prohibitively expensive, some of which can be purchased with the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Enciso said.

“The USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service has a cost-sharing program that helps growers buy equipment such as used pipe systems or to make investments in land-leveling or to invest in drip and sprinkler systems to help them be more water efficient,” he said. “We’ll also discuss demonstration results of trials by the Texas Project for Ag Water Efficiency, funded by the Texas Water Development Board. We’ll talk about useful information provided by our weather stations to estimate water requirements, how to use soil water sensors to manage irrigation, surface irrigation systems, insect control during drought, and how to fertigate — apply fertilizer via an irrigation system to increase water-use efficiency, which is productivity per unit of water. This workshop will help growers make it through what’s expected to be a water-lean year.”

Programming and presenters will include: “Irrigation Scheduling Using Weather Stations,” Dr. Carlos Fernandez, AgriLife Research, Corpus Christi; “Equipment Incentive Programs,” Paul Bauer, USDA-NRCS technician, Cameron County; “Chemigation, Fertigation and Water-Use Efficiency,” Enciso; “Drought and Insect Control,” Dr. Raul Villanueva, AgriLife Extension, Weslaco; “Soil Water Sensors and Irrigation Scheduling,” Dr. Shad Nelson, Texas A&M University-Kingsville; “Managing Surface Irrigation Systems,” Dr. Hugo Perea, AgriLife Research, Weslaco; “Economics and Water Management,” Mac Young, AgriLife Extension, Corpus Christi; and “RGV Soil Testing Campaign-Nutrient Management,” Dr. Enrique Perez, AgriLife Extension, San Benito.

For more information, call Heather Stock, Harlingen Irrigation District, at 956-423-7015, extension 235, or Enciso at 956-968-5585.

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