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.