At the Fall Field Day at the Edisto Research and Education Center, Ahmad Khalilian presented research on the return on investment, as well as increased yield for irrigation on cotton, and the results are eye-opening:
AK: Our data over the past ten years showing irrigation revealed, you know during growing season we get about 20 inches of rain and that is good enough to grow good cotton, but the distribution is poor. We don't get the rain when we need it, that why we've got to have irrigation. Irrigation will help. Irrigation is not just for risk management, it will increase the yield.
SFN: You discovered that the yield increases were substantial.
AK: Yes, we averaged over four years, we showed about 65 percent increase from the overhead irrigation and the three years' data from 1997 to 1999, the same increase almost from 37 to almost 100 percent.
SFN: And that's using center pivots?
AK: That was sub-surface drip irrigation. We have underground irrigation.
SFN: And you also discovered that it pays for itself in pretty short order.
AK: With the price we have now for cotton and corn, it should pay in two to three years.
SFN: That's pretty quick, some of the equipment is not inexpensive.
AK: Well, the pivot will cost about $40,000 probably, and the wheel and the pump will cost, depends on the size of the pump, about probably $40,000. But it will increase for corn and cotton about $400 per acre in return due to irrigation.
SFN: Is there anything you'd like to add?
AK: One thing we are doing, we are using sensors for schedule irrigation. We are working with variable rate irrigation to put water where it is needed, in the amount it is needed. And we have installed at least 42 of these units in the farmer's center pivot.
Ahmad Khalilian with the Edisto Research and Education Center in Blackville, South Carolina