Irrigation Investment

Nearly 80 percent of Ohio was classified as experiencing a “moderate drought” this season. Many consumers believe that the answer to this year’s drought is an easy and simple one — Use irrigation systems — An answer that farmers wish was as easily applied as it is recommended.

Farmers have been categorized, among other categories, as “dry-land farmers” or “irrigated farmers.”

“A dry-land farmer plants and prays,” said a farmer in a recent NPR news story.

So why don’t Midwest farmers utilize irrigation systems like their western and southern counterparts? There are multiple reasons according to Larry Brown, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer and professor of food, agricultural and biological engineering:

  • Often it’s cost prohibitive: cost of investment/maintenance, mechanical issues, repairs, fuel    
  • There are water restrictions: demands 200 or more gallons of flow per minute; water sources such as ponds, streams, wells etc. are often depleted during droughts   
  • It requires a permit   
  • Summer rain is usually common in the Midwest   The sub-soil type is effective at containing moisture  
Dan Kamburoff, owner of Columbus Irrigation of Ashland, Ohio, said that the odds of needing irrigation for field crops are only about one or two years of 10, per a recent Farm and Dairy story.
“The irrigated farmer is in a completely different business,” said the NPR story author. 
Even with the many deterrents to investing in irrigation systems, many news stories have noted that irrigation dealers experienced increased interest this year because of the drought.  
Columbus Irrigation had a 40 percent business increase this year.

It will be interesting to note a potential increase of Ohio farmers who invest in irrigation systems during the coming years as a result of this year’s anomaly.
"Do your homework. For short periods in a typical Ohio growing season the return on the investment may not be there," said Brown.

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