Arkansas Discovery Farm’s story to be profiled at Mid-South Farm and Gin Show
By Dave Edmark
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Feb. 12, 2016
- Steve Stevens’ farm in Desha County, Division of Ag teamed on Discovery Farm project
- Environmental footprint shrinkage at farm measured
- Stevens, Division to receive award for efforts
LITTLE ROCK – Successes at a cotton and corn farm where University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture personnel are measuring efficiencies will highlight a panel and be recognized with an award at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show on Feb. 26-27 in Memphis, Tennessee.
The division’s work at Steve Stevens’ farm in Desha County will be discussed at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at a Mid-South Ag Forum panel on “Profitability and Stewardship Together – Through Technology” featuring Stevens, Mike Daniels, an extension water quality specialist in the division, and Bill Robertson, an extension cotton agronomist in the division. Stevens’ property is part of the division’s Discovery Farms program that host real-world demonstrations and research on the environmental impact of agricultural production.
Stevens has four fields in the Discovery Farms program (See: http://discoveryfarms.uark.edu/). Robertson said the team measures all water inputs including precipitation and irrigation amounts added to a field and then measures any water that runs off at the bottom of the field. State-of-the-art, automated water sampling equipment collects water samples to determine how much soil and nutrients are being lost. The goal is to evaluate nutrient and sediment content in runoff and to implement conservation tillage practices that decrease the runoff and lower sediment and nutrient loading in runoff water.
“Cover crops are being used on the Discovery fields to improve soil health and results are being logged by the data loggers,” Stevens said.
The monitoring allows the specialists working with Stevens to determine both irrigation and fertilizer efficiencies. Data collected during the last three growing seasons indicate small nutrient losses of less than 5 percent relative to fertilizer applications indicating high efficiency. Meanwhile, irrigation has improved each of the three years with 90 percent application efficiency being achieved in 2015. Stevens uses polypipe to furrow irrigate and uses computerized hole-selection software to maximize application uniformity and efficiency.
“Computerized hole selection is saving me water, time and fuel and providing significant
cost savings which is improving my profitability,” Stevens said. “Every hour I spend
on the computer running the software to design my furrow irrigation system saves me
an estimated $300 each hour at 2016 fuel prices,” Stevens said.
Monitoring of Discovery Farms continues for several years as data are analyzed to establish baseline values for nitrate, phosphate and sediment content of the runoff water associated with management practices. Farmers generally evaluate their situation over time and implement changes as needed.
Robertson said the Discovery team at the Stevens farm is collecting data that will back up or contradict estimates that are being used in models to predict the impact that production agriculture has on the environment. He said this is important because little data exist in actual production situations.
“To stay in the cotton business we have to be more efficient,” he said. “Companies, universities and farmers can calculate their environmental footprint on calculators and see how they compare to the national and regional averages. They can also evaluate how adjustments in their management practices will impact their footprint. Steve has been doing a number of things to improve his bottom line. When we take some of those things and put them into the calculator, we can see that he is shrinking his environmental footprint too.”
During the proceedings the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show will present its 2016 Agricultural Achievement Award to the Division of Agriculture and to Stevens in recognition of their development and adoption of agricultural research in the Discovery Farms project.
The Mid-South Farm and Gin Show, hosted at the Cook Convention Center, focuses on all major Mid-South crops and includes several educational seminars from industry experts on topics including commodity markets, crop marketing strategies and best management practices. Online registration for the show with a full schedule of events is available at http://farmandginshow.com/.
For more information about crop production, contact your county extension office or visit www.uaex.edu.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service