What do a cotton and corn producer in Mississippi and a bare root pine tree grower in Georgia have in common, besides being Southerners?
They’re also two growers who recently converted to center pivot irrigation to gain greater efficiency and yields.
Jay Hoover of Hoover Farms outside of Macon, Miss., considered irrigating on his 1,200-acre farm for years. However, he didn’t invest until last fall.
“For a while, other business interests took precedence over farming for me,” Hoover says, “but once I started farming full time again last year, I immediately installed a pivot.”
A long-standing relationship with new Valley dealer Stephen Johnson of Triple J Equipment in Macon, Miss., also played a significant role in Hoover’s decision. Because the two have known each other for years, Johnson had a good idea about what Hoover might need to begin irrigating.
He recommended that, as a new irrigator, Hoover start small. So Hoover opted for an 80-acre Valley pivot, sticking with dryland for his remaining crops.
“Now Jay tells me that irrigation has become the joy of his work,” Johnson says.
Hoover grows wheat and soybeans, and he plans to irrigate cotton and corn on rotation. He started the 2015 growing season with corn under his pivot.
“We’ve had a lot of rain this year, so I don’t think we’ll see as much difference in yield as we will in other years, but I think we’ll see an increase of 60 to 70 bushels per acre,” says Hoover. “I expect that number will change year over year.”
Hoover Farms added a 15-acre recreational lake to their property seven years ago. Today, the lake provides the means to irrigate.
“We have a 400 gallon/minute pump that pulls water from the lake which we can run 24/7,” Hoover says. “If it pulls the lake down a couple of inches, it’s not a problem.”
Because there is plenty of leeway with the water source, Hoover plans to install a second pivot covering another 330 acres next year.
From Solid Set to a Solid Investment
Near Buena Vista, Ga., Ken Singleton and his family have been growing pines for 17 years at K & L Forest Nursery, Inc., where they raise 18 million trees every year. While that sounds like a whopping number of trees, Singleton says it’s just a drop in the bucket in this part of the world, where growing pines for lumber, biomass and pulp is big business.
Singleton used solid set irrigation for years, which required intensive effort on his part.
“It was very inefficient and labor intensive,” he says. “I would dedicate all day, every other day to watching that irrigation, making sure nothing went wrong. It just became too much. So this time last year, I decided it was time to make a change.”
Singleton called Jim Reid of Reid Brothers Irrigation in Americus, Ga., to learn about center pivot irrigation. Discussion and consultation led Reid to customize a pivot equipped with really low drop lines and a low and high pressure package.
“I’d never been around pivots in my life and the dealership was gracious enough to train me on everything – and I mean everything!” Singleton says. “I have more time in my life now that I’m not dedicated to watering all day. I absolutely love the change.”
Pine trees require an extensive amount of water from the very start. At K & L, the Singletons lay the seed on the ground in the early spring, cover it with natural mulch and keep it damp for four to six weeks. They often run the pivot twice a day at very low pressure, just to ensure there’s enough water and to keep the seeds cool during germination.
“It’s not just that they need water – they also need the cooling effect to grow in this hot southern climate,” Singleton explains. “But even though I’m watering often, I’m still saving water. Now, I’m only running one well instead of two as I did with the solid set.”
Singleton says that while the water savings are significant, the center pivot also enormously improved his application uniformity, which is essential in the pine business.
“The germination and the uniformity are outstanding now,” he says. “I thought I was irrigating evenly before with the solid set, yet in August and September I still had some holes. With the conversion, everything is watered so uniformly that there are no deformed trees, which brings me greater returns.”
Singleton also plans to add another pivot next year.
“The pivot provides a great return on my investment, and it increases my land value,” Singleton says. “I can’t see a flaw in pivot irrigation yet!”
Reprinted from Valley PivotPoint® magazine, Fall 2015