Cotton Farming with T-Tape Drip Irrigation Tape
Installation of sub-surface irrigation on cotton fields at O & E Farms results in far-reaching benefits that ripple across the entire operation.
Water isn’t exactly plentiful in the desert, which keeps J.L. Echeverria and Chad Odom, owners of Arizona-based O & E Farms, always on the lookout for ways to stretch their limited supplies. That’s the main reason they felt a T-Tape Drip Tape system was the best fit for their operation. Since installing the system on 300 acres of cotton and alfalfa, they have found that on top of reducing the amount of water they use on their farm, the T-Tape system has also brought about secondary benefits that have a positive impact on their operation.
Across-the-Board Savings Help Offset System Costs
The conversion to drip took around 3 ½ months to complete and went smoothly from start to finish. One benefit Odom noticed right away, in addition to significant savings on the labor side, is a reduction in heavy tillage on drip-irrigated fields.
Echeverria observed differences in their cotton crop. “The cotton defoliated easier because we weren’t oversaturating and overfertilizing the soil. It was much easier to get the crop to cut out and take down.”
Both owners are confident the T-Tape system will deliver a good return on investment because of reduced water, energy and labor costs. Additionally, precise control over nutrient and water placement and reduced trips across the field for weed control and tillage will help offset the costs of the system. Thanks to across-the-board savings, Echeverria and Odom hope to pay for their system in three to five years and plan to convert over more acreage in the future.”
Yield Increases Relative to the Amount of Water Used
When asked to make a yield comparison for drip irrigation versus conventional irrigation, Echeverria offers a unique perspective when it comes to growing cotton.
“I think there is a dramatic yield increase relative to the amount of water you use,” says Echeverria. “If you simply want to look at it as how much cotton you can grow on this ground with an unlimited supply of water, compared to what you can grow with drip, I am not sure there is a yield increase. I am a strong believer that the right way to look at water out here in the desert is how much water you are using per unit of production. In that respect, there is a yield increase. It is just not per acre; it is per unit of water.”
Taking Care of the Investment
Echeverria advises performing routine maintenance on the tape and keeping emitters clean to keep the system running smoothly. Occasionally, he has to flush his lines and add sand because of the hard water at O & E Farms. For the most part, however, he says the filter does an excellent job of keeping the system clean.
“The T-Tape Drip Tape system has changed our approach to farming and managing the crop,” says Echeverria. “We expect to enjoy its benefits for many years to come as long as we take good care of our investment.”
Four Production Benefits of T-Tape Drip Irrigation Tape
J.L. Echeverria and Chad Odom of O & E Farms in Arizona are spending less time irrigating and more time farming smart thanks to T-Tape Drip Tape Irrigation.
Not long ago, workers at Arizona-based O & E Farms spent a majority of their time changing siphon tubes, moving ditch checks and troubleshooting furrows. The work was arduous and time consuming. The labor costs exorbitant. Owners J.L. Echeverria and Chad Odom knew there had to be a better way. Their solution — install T-Tape Drip Tape systems on 300 acres of cotton and alfalfa.
Now workers at O & E farms spend less time irrigating and more time on other important tasks. While saving on labor has been a big plus, Echeverria and Odom are quick to point out that the benefits of the T-Tape system go far beyond labor savings.
Spend Less Time Irrigating
Unlike furrow or flood irrigation, drip irrigation allows growers to tailor water applications to fit the needs of the plant. Moisture stays below the surface in the root zone where it is less prone to losses from wind or evaporation. Plus, time spent in the field irrigating is dramatically reduced.
“We have saved a lot of money because subsurface drip takes one guy a small portion of the day to check things out. That is a huge change from using two people 24 hours a day. We think it will cut our labor costs, which include more than irrigation, from $200 an acre to $75 or less,” says Echeverria.
Put a Dent in Water and Energy Bills
With water supplies diminishing yearly, the cost of water in Arizona is on the rise. It is no wonder that water conservation at O & E farms is a top priority. The drip-system has resulted in less water usage, which reduces the amount of water the farm has to pump, ultimately resulting in a lower energy bill.
“The savings add up fast when water usage comes down from the 6 to 6.5 foot of water at $47 per acre we used last year to the 2.5 foot per acre we used this year for our short-season cotton. I suspect if we had carried the crop full season we would have used around 3.5 acre/foot, so it is still 50% or greater savings in water and we have substantially lowered energy costs,” says Echeverria.
Reduce Weed Pressure
Both owners have noticed a substantial reduction in weed pressure on drip-irrigated fields. They attribute it to the absence of water on the soil surface where weed seeds often accumulate. Subsequently, where they used to spray Round Up two or three times a year, they now save time and money by spraying once.
Place Fertilizer More Efficiently
Another benefit of the T-Tape system is the ability to place nutrients where they will do the most good. According to Echeverria, fertilizer placement at O & E Farms is critical because the unique water and soil types in their area can inhibit nutrient movement. He compares his T-Tape system to an IV-drip for plants. The subsurface roots have a direct link to life-sustaining water and health-promoting nutrients that growers can deliver on-the-spot to meet the needs of the crop.