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Irrigation Assistance Provided in Aroostook County

For some farmers, supplemental irrigation of potatoes has been a part of their Aroostook County operation for 30 plus years. The associated benefits of irrigation, such as increased yields, improved quality, and risk reduction, are not without the potential for degradation of the soil and water and plant resources (increased erosion, poor soil quality, water quantity and quality, increased pest pressure, etc.). In 2010 NRCS provided financial and technical assistance to several growers in the area to address these issues.

In one such case, the grower was using two travelling gun sprinklers to irrigate 40 acres of potatoes on an annual basis. The sprinklers would be used on one field one year and an adjacent field the following year. Small grains and canola are used in rotation with the potatoes. Water was supplied from a pond/high yield well through a partially buried, partially overland pipeline. When soil and crop conditions indicated a need for water the existing system would be run for 27 hours and provide 0.75 inches of water to the crop. This required 1.12 inches of water to overcome the inefficiencies of the system. Soil erosion would sometimes occur during applications. The overland pipe system was not water tight and leakage would develop during operation, at times breaking defective and worn out pipeline and causing soil erosion and water loss. To address these resource concerns the landowner entered into an EQIP contract which included $70,000 to replace the two traveling gun sprinklers with a moveable center pivot sprinkler, buried pipeline, and development and application of an irrigation water management plan. This allowed the grower to apply lesser amounts of water more frequently resulting in 25% less water used and no signs of irrigation induced erosion.