Drought conditions are great anxiety producers, especially if you don't normally irrigate your crops. As painful as it may be, however, the best advice for non-irrigators is often to wait things out during a drought. While some irrigation equipment may be available on an emergency basis from dealers or area irrigators, the permitting process for surface water or groundwater sources can take well over a month. Furthermore, the manpower, training, and financing needed to develop an irrigation system make it unrealistic as a short-term solution. Running an irrigation system can be a full-time job in itself, one that can take three years to master, and one that may take ten years to pay off through increased production.
One thing you can do is realistically evaluate whether an irrigation system makes sense for you in the the long run. Follow the guidelines at right to make this determination and to understand the processes involved in setting up an irrigation system.DO SOME RESEARCH
Consider irrigation in relation to your type of crops, soil, water availability, time and farm budget. Irrigation systems have become increasingly sophisticated-something that makes them more valuable in terms of productivity, but also more of a commitment in terms of time, management and financial investment. Discuss the matter with your county Extension office, other irrigators and equipment dealers.
Surface water diversions generally cover rivers, lakes and streams. Riparian land-land which adjoins these waterways-is the first requirement for irrigators. In order to obtain a surface water diversion permit from the DNR, you also will need:
Groundwater diversions are covered by DNR high-capacity well permits. These wells pump 70 gallons per minute (gpm) or more. Contact a local well driller of the DNR District water manager to initiate the permitting process.
For a well permit, you will need:
Irrigation equipment dealers can be very helpful in assessing your needs and potential for irrigation. Equipment ranges from large-volume traveling sprinklers which can cover 100 acres in a week to center pivots which water up to 133 acres in two days. The supply of equipment is somewhat limited during the growing season. Most equipment is sold and delivered during the winter and early spring. Keep this in mind as you begin irrigation system planning.
Your county agricultural agent, equipment dealers, the Department of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey
UW-Extension publication-"Irrigation Management in Wisconsin-the Wisconsin Irrigation Scheduling Program," (WISP), (A3600).
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