The Northwest Kansas Water Technology Farms 2017 initiative was a monumental success. The project was a critical component in promoting irrigation water management adoption in Northwest Kansas on several fronts. First and foremost the project aided in acquainting previously unexposed growers to available irrigation water management technologies that they might not have otherwise explored. The project was also critical in helping several other growers continue their efforts to effectively utilize irrigation water management technologies. The initiative was also an integral part in promoting workforce development within the irrigation water management sector by securing several paid internships with regional water technology dealers. Finally, the effort overall was a monumental stride forward for the Precision Agriculture Technology program at Northwest Tech as the department was able to rapidly develop its irrigation water management curriculum, tools, equipment and relationships.
The Northwest Kansas Water Technology Farms project for 2017 was comprised of ten participating landowners and operators, and eighteen fields comprised of 2,046 acres of irrigated crop land. Of the 2,046 participating acres, 1,326 acres were planted with corn, 480 acres with beans, 120 acres with confectionary sunflowers, and 120 acres with alfalfa.
All participating fields were equipped with technologies that were used on and/or with pivot irrigation platforms exclusively. No equipment or efforts were geared toward subsurface irrigation or flood irrigation applications. A wide variety of technologies, conventions and services were applied across the water technology farms, including; soil moisture probes, variable rate irrigation controllers, variable rate prescription speed tables, electromagnetic soil mapping, soil sampling, and a weather station.
The planning, field mapping and installation of equipment was all performed by Northwest Tech faculty, students, and interns in direct support of our dealers. The Water Technology Farms project for 2017 included dealership support from Crop Metrics, On Target Solutions, Hortau, Servi-Tech, AquaSpy, Woofter Irrigation, Lindsay Corporation, Valley, and AgSense. Hortau and AquaSpy both provided paid summer internships for two Northwest Tech Precision Agriculture Technology students, while three other student interns from the program assisted faculty and dealers with data collection and equipment installation for college credit.
Funding for the project came from a collaboration of sources which include; Kansas Water Office (KWO), Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Corn Growers Association, Northwest Kansas Groundwater Conservation Foundation, Dane G. Hansen Foundation, Perkins Foundation, Northwest Kansas Technical College (NWKTC), and several private donors from the local and agricultural communities.
A general set of criteria was agreed on by the Kansas Water Office, Groundwater Management District 4 (GMD4), and Northwest Tech for selecting qualifying farmers, operators and fields to be included in the Water Technology Farms 2017 project. The general agreement promoted working with owners and operators who had irrigated fields within red and yellow townships outlined in the Groundwater Management Districts tentative version of the proposed Local Enhanced Management Area as it stood at the end of 2016. The agreement also promoted teaming up with growers who were operating and/or pursuing Water Conservation Areas. Private and educational funds were used then to extend the project to include some growers who irrigate in sensitive areas like the West Fork of the Republican River watershed, and to other irrigators who had fields strategically located next to heavily travelled roadways. Of the eighteen fields enrolled in the project, ten fields were located within a tentative LEMA red or yellow township, two fields were part of an existing Water Conservation Area, two fields were tentatively being registered into a Water Conservation Area, two fields were located in the West Folk of the Republican, and two fields were strategically located next to heavily travelled roadways.
For a summary of events, discoveries and results from each field enrolled in the Northwest Kansas Water Technology Farms 2017 project please see the individual reports for the following owners/operators: