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Irrigation Efficiency Provides Soil, Water, and Energy Conservation

Web image: Photo of a young girl in an orchard, biting into a fresh picked apple

A drip irrigation system applies water directly
to plants

Full screen view

Overlooking the mighty Hudson River, Lawrence Farms is part of a region of rolling hills planted with fruit trees, vineyards and fields of green. New York State is the second highest producer of apples in the nation, and the Hudson Valley holds the state’s historic “apple belt”. The Hudson Valley is well known for its scenic landscapes, including its working lands – and apples are a symbol of the region’s agricultural character.

From 2002 to 2007 acreage in apples declined by 14 percent in the Hudson Valley, while the number of apple orchards went down by 25 percent. Considering that fruit trees take years to become established, these losses are significant. The Lawrence Farm recognized this changing trend and after many years in the wholesale fruit production business the family changed their operation to a retail and tourism operation, capturing the enthusiasm of buy local.

In 2009 the Natural Resources Conservation Service contracted with Lawrence Farms, under the Agricultural Management Assistance Program, to engineer an irrigation plan for the farms transition from a manual, sprinkler type of watering system to a more efficient, precise drip line irrigation system.

A pumping plant conveys water from the pond to a gravity system. Control valves throughout the farm meter the amount of water needed as it is carried across the farm to each field of trees. This allows additional accuracy in irrigation and water conservation.

Drip irrigation emits water directly to the soil and thus soaks the tree roots. The result of this irrigation method conserves water quantity and reduces soil erosion a common problem with overhead sprinkler systems. There is also less demand on the pond that stores water for the farm. Motors that run the system have been designed for efficiency, flexibility and to accommodate new and established orchard trees and vegetables. A schedule of monitoring the weather and plant conditions ensures healthier plants and reduces the needs for pest management.

With offices in nearly every county in the United States, NRCS works with landowners and communities to improve our soil, water, air, plants, wildlife, and energy use. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to farmers to help plan and implement conservation practices to protect the environment while helping producers meet Federal, State, Tribal and local environmental regulations. If you are interested in how you can protect natural resources on your farm or forestland, please contact your local NRCS office.

Media Contact: Public Affairs 315-477-6524