AG Watch

World Ag Expo - Day Two

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An uncertain water supply makes it difficult for farmers to make cropping decisions. Some exhibitors at the World Ag Expo in Tulare are fielding the same question, "How can I save more water?"

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The rain and snow is obviously needed but visitors were glad to see the skies clear on day two of the World Ag Expo. Wind machines and a blast of sunshine helped dry the muddy grounds.

It's not enough to have a big, powerful tractor; today's farmers are looking into GPS water management systems that help them conserve.

Marty Cook of "Topcon Precision Ag" explained, "We have Cropspec, which as you're driving you can see the sod over there, it'll adjust your fertilizer rates as you're driving depending on the color of the field."

Farmers are desperate to save a precious resource -- water. "Poly-pipe" claims its water tubing is the cheapest way to irrigate. David Young of Berry Plastics explained, "Less theft. You get a lot of theft with the metal pipe. The pvc pipe is more expensive. It's just a low-cost, more efficient way to water."

But in terms of crop per drop, it's impossible to top the lettuce grown by American Hydroponics. Kelley Nicholson of Amhydro.Com said, "It uses a tenth of the water of normal soil agriculture so it's a significant savings."

No soil here. The plant starts in a cube soaked in nutrients and quickly builds a strong root system. Hydroponics also produces hearty vegetables like broccoli and tomatoes.

Nicholson said farmers who used to dismiss the system are now coming back around to ask questions.

Nicholson added, "This a good way for people to experiment with it, see if they're ready to move into hydroponics, which is gonna be the wave of the future when you look at the water situation, especially in California."

Nicholson said a system which requires less water and less space is growing more popular not only in the U.S. but in other countries were drought poses problems.

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