Helping Farmers Develop Efficient Water Practices
The FARMS program presented by SWFWMD is a perfect way for blueberry growers to get some much-needed assistance when it comes to instituting new, conservative irrigation techniques. Patricia Robertshaw gives us some of the details.
Great news for blueberry growers! Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) has a cost share program for installing new irrigation equipment that could really make your day.
The FARMS cost share reimbursement program is designed to help farmers reduce groundwater withdrawal from the aquifer in a way that is affordable and sustainable. SWFWMD encourages the use of best practices in water management, and the FARMS program is an excellent way to meet that goal.
This is a reimbursement program, so the growers must pay up front and then submit invoices to be compensated for their investment. Growers can be reimbursed up to 75 percent of the cost for a project. Projects are reviewed on a monthly basis, so there is no deadline to beat when it comes to submitting requests.
Tail water recovery and surface water irrigation pump stations are covered by the program. This will help out farmers who have an existing pond that they would like to irrigate from, or if they are interested in excavating a pond for such use. This use of an alternative water source will result in less water being drawn from the aquifer.
Irrigation system conversion allows growers to switch to a more conservative irrigation approach. For example, if a grower only has overhead watering they can tap into this program to offset the cost of installing drip irrigation. While overhead watering is necessary during freezes, it can be very wasteful for general irrigation purposes.
Weather stations and soil moisture stations can also be cost-shared under the FARMS program. “Weather stations can be integrated into an automatic irrigation stop-start control station,” describes Patricia Robertshaw of SWFWMD. These integrated systems can detect rainfall and soil moisture to determine whether or not to initiate automatic irrigation.
Another benefit of weather stations is their ability to determine irrigation needs based on temperature. During the cold season, the temperature in different parts of the grower’s field can vary. These innovative systems can detect the temperature and automatically turn the protective irrigation on or off. This can save the farmers time and water by decreasing the amount of time they have to spend manually travelling from one pump station to another turning the irrigation on or off.
It’s expensive to pump when you don’t need to pump. By taking advantage of the FARMS program and investing just a portion of the cost of instituting some new best management practices, growers can not only reduce the amount of water used and drawn from the ground, but also save time and fuel costs.
If you are interested in learning more about this program, simply visit www.watermatters.org/FARMS to read about the program’s goals and qualifications. You can also contact Patricia Robertshaw at (941) 377-3722, ext. 6523 or Patricia.Robertshaw@WaterMatters.org.
By Teresa Schiffer