Australia-based Stahmann Farm Enterprises will be able to increase its pecan nut production by updating its drip irrigation system and becoming more water efficient. The upgrades are made possible by a $250,000 state government grant.
Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton calls the conversion to a modern drip system “a taste of things to come with horticulture.” The company will convert the older parts of the farm, planted in the 60s and 70s, to more modern drip irrigation. “What that means is here at the farm they can use the water that they have access to more efficiently and that allows them to expand the farm, to plant more trees, create extra production…,” Coulton says.
Stahmann Farms says the funding will allow the business to grow from 60,000 trees to their goal of 200,000, according to the Moree Champion. The nut-growing company currently supplies 95% of Australia’s pecan consumption and half a percent of the global supply.
Water Supply a Hefty Risk for Ag
Water is currently one of the biggest risks to the $5 trillion food industry, according to the sustainability nonprofit organization Ceres. The global food sector, which uses 70% of the world’s freshwater, faces extraordinary risks from the twin challenges of water scarcity and water pollution. Rising competition, combined with aging water infrastructure, weak regulation and climate change are creating a water availability emergency that the World Economic Forum recently ranked as the world’s “top global risk.”
In the US, Agencies Explore Best Practices
In the US, state agencies are looking at irrigation and best practices that farms can adopt to increase water-use efficiency while maintaining or increasing crop yields, according to Brenda Ortiz, extension agronomist and associate professor in the Auburn University College of Agriculture’s Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences (via the Southeast Farm Press). In Alabama, for example, the Conservation and Innovation Program of the Natural Resources and Conservation Service awarded Auburn a grant of $946,684 to increase the adoption of climate- and water-smart irrigation practices among Tennessee Valley farmers in Alabama and Tennessee.
Alabama lags neighboring states in terms of water irrigation practices: only 15% of the land currently available for farming is irrigated, compared to Mississippi’s 61% and Georgia’s 40%.
Ortiz surveyed Alabama farmers and crop consultants last year to gauge how confident they felt about irrigating properly and found that more than half (58%) said they did not have much experience using technology like soil-sensor data for scheduling irrigation. They don’t know if they’re using the right rate or if they’re applying it at the right time, she says. “This is because they haven’t been using irrigation in Alabama as long as producers in neighboring states.”