CASNR develops new Agricultural Water Management Certificate Program

From Texas Tech Today

JANUARY 9, 2019 — Texas Tech University agricultural experts have expressed the growing need for training students in the latest irrigation technologies to enhance the efficiency of water use.

In response, the university's College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources (CASNR) will offer an undergraduate agricultural water management certificate to provide courses on efficient and profitable management of water for agricultural purposes, with emphasis on irrigation technologies.

"The undergraduate agricultural water management certificate is equally available to degree-seeking undergraduates and non-degree-seeking working adults," said Chuck West, the Thornton Distinguished Chair in the Department of Plant and Soil Science and administrator of the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation (TAWC). "All courses take place on campus, and require enrolling in the university, even if just for one course."

The certificate program was conceived by the TAWC, a water-management outreach project housed within CASNR, to bolster education of the agricultural workforce. Starting this spring, the certificate program will consist of a series of courses, totaling 15 hours, that cover aspects of water management and conservation.

A new course called the Irrigation Management Seminar will be offered every fall semester and is designed to meet the workforce needs of key stakeholders in agriculture such as producers, equipment providers, consultants and government agencies.

The certificate curriculum will provide students with information related to managing water for growing crops and other plants for horticultural and turf uses. The irrigation course will provide technical background on soil and plant sciences, the mechanics of irrigation equipment, use of programs to control and schedule irrigation and exposure to economic and regulatory aspects that guide irrigation use.

West said that while the certificate provides documentation of continuing education for those already in the workforce, it also allows traditional students the opportunity to further emphasize an area in the same department as their major as distinct from a minor, which can only be done in a department outside that of their major.

Ag irrigation strategies discussed at Jan. 24 TAWC Water College

Variable rate irrigation technology, soil management, upcoming weather patterns, and an evaluation of various irrigation systems were among the topics discussed at the Jan. 24 Texas Alliance for Water Conservation (TAWC) Water College.

Approximately 244 persons attended the day-long event and trade show at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center.

TAWC producer Lloyd Arthur told the group that he is "a big believer" in variable rate irrigation technology which enables him to speed up or slow down his center pivot system as needed to reduce water losses.

"I can speed up the pivot to get across terraces, turnrows, and pivot access roads to reduce runoff and then slow it down to apply water to the more profitable part of the field. This helps optimize every acre," he said.

Use of soil moisture sensors aided Arthur in adjusting the run times of his center pivot and drip irrigation systems.

"Information from the sensors sent to my phone showed me that some of the water being applied was not making its way to the plant roots. Because of this, I adjusted my pivot and drip system run times accordingly."

TAWC producer  R.N. Hopper discussed various paradigms that he and his father, Ronnie, have  encountered in their farming operation. They included furrow irrigation, center pivots, Roundup Ready seed, no-till operations, and biological soil health.

"We thought each was the best solution but outlooks change over time as a result of weather, new crop varieties, new technologies, economics, and other variables. We don't go back and judge these past paradigms because they were the best management practices that we could accomplish at the time," said Hopper.

Roian Atwood, Director of Sustainability for Wrangler, discussed the denim company's recent partnership with the TAWC program.

TAWC will serve as an advisor to Wrangler's U.S. sustainable cotton program. Wranger, in turn, will help promote awareness of best farm management practices  resulting from TAWC's on-farm research.

Wyman Meinzer, official photographer of the State of Texas, was the keynote lunch speaker. 
He shared his three-year experience photographing the San Antonio Viejo Ranch in Jim Hogg County for the upcoming book, Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut. It details the 100-year history of the ranch and the ranching heritage of the Tom T. East family.

TAWC producer Glenn Schur provided results of a center pivot technology demonstration that compared crop yields under Low Drift Nozzles, LEPA, LESA, and Precision Mobile Drip Irrigation.

Other presentations included an update from Texas Water Development Board member Kathleen Jackson, an overview of Texas water law, discussion of profit potential using split pivot irrigation technologies in cotton production, a look at upcoming weather patterns, a review of producer tools available through the West Texas Mesonet, and ways to improve corn water use through hybrid selection. 

A handbook with each PowerPoint presentation is available at www.tawcwatercollege.com