Growers Learn Ways To Reduce Water Quality Problems

Ernest Girouard, Schultz, Bruce  |  7/25/2005 11:09:52 PM

News Release Distributed 07/15/05

Growers involved in the Louisiana Master Farmer program learned about ways to minimize water quality problems in rice and crawfish operations while using less water during an LSU AgCenter Model Farm Field Day Wednesday (July 13) in Vermilion Parish.

Farmers enrolled in the Master Farmer program received credit for the second phase of the educational program by participating in the field day.

The tour of the model farm was held in conjunction with the Vermilion Parish Rice Field Day at the Errol Lounsberry Farm near Lake Arthur. The Lounsberry operation was selected as one of the model farms being used to demonstrate best management practices across the state.

Carrie Mendoza, administrator of the Master Farmer program for the LSU AgCenter, said the proactive steps that farmers are taking in the program will demonstrate that agriculture is taking the lead to address environmental challenges.

"We are really proud of the good work we are doing in conservation and want to show the positive impacts that a voluntary program can have," she said.

Dr. Bill Branch, an LSU AgCenter engineer, said the use of polyethylene pipe for multiple side inlet irrigation can save water – by as much as 24 percent in a study conducted in Arkansas. But installing the pipe, which comes in large rolls, isn’t easy at first, he said.

"The first time you use poly tubing, you’re not going to like it," he cautioned.

Precision leveling will save water, and so will eliminating multiple levees, he said.

Levees that have been built higher and steeper capture and hold more rainwater, Branch said. And tailwater recovery systems that allow farmers to recycle irrigation water also reduce water use, he said.

Dr. Ray McClain, a specialist in crawfish at the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station, said several steps can be taken to avoid water quality issues from discharges of crawfish ponds.

He said taller drop pipes will allow fields to capture more rainwater, decreasing pumping costs and lessening discharge.

Allowing at least 48 hours between the last pass with a crawfish paddleboat and draining a pond also will allow sediment to settle, McClain said. In addition, draining a field through a vegetated ditch will filter out sediments, he said, adding that leaving the last 10 percent to 20 percent of water in a field to evaporate will prevent most sediment discharge.

Writer: Bruce Schultz at (337) 788-8821

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