Corn School: Doing the Math on Subsurface Drip Irrigation

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It’s been four years since Todd Boughner of Judge Farms took the plunge and installed 67 acres of subsurface drip irrigation on a sandy soiled farm near Delhi, Ontario.

When Real Agriculture first visited the project, Boughner, the farm manager, was busy working with a crew to install drip tape across the entire field in an effort to deliver moisture to growing crops, which were chronically challenged by lack of moisture in the course, sandy soil. During the hot dry conditions of 2012, the farm experienced a complete crop failure and Judge Farms was determined to give irrigation a shot.

Check out Real Agriculture’s 2012 Visit to Judge Farms

At a cost of $1,400 per acre to install, Boughner believed subsurface irrigation’s ability to make water available to growing corn plants during stressful conditions would eliminate drought-related crop failures and help the farm deliver a consistent corn crop.

Real Agriculture paid a return visit to the farm in early September for an update on the irrigation endeavour. In this video, Boughner says he’s very pleased with the venture. During the first three years – 2013 to 2015 – the field produced an average corn yield of 245 bushels per acre. During the extreme conditions of summer 2016, where neighbouring cornfields have withered and died, Boughner estimates the field will produce an average yield of 180 bushels.

After four years, including the 2016 crop, Boughner estimates Judge Farms has already paid for half the investment. With a life expectancy of more that 20 years, he believes subsurface drip irrigation will indeed pay handsomely.

In the video, Boughner does the math; talks about the benefits of subsurface irrigation, especially on the Simcoe sand plain; explains his efforts to fertigate the crop through irrigation; discusses water needs, grain quality; and offers some tips on what farmers should consider if they’re thinking about taking the irrigation plunge.

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