Irrigation Increasingly Important to Midwest Farming

Irrigation systems have become more and more important across the drought-ravaged Midwest as farmers are looking for new techniques to grow crops in an increasingly hostile climate.
Last summer’s record-breaking drought came as a blow to many farmers across the country. While farmers from California to Ohio were hammered by high temperatures and low rainfall, the Midwestern Corn Belt was hit particularly hard (partially due to the delicate nature of corn production). Corn farmers across the region stood by helplessly as their crops withered in their fields.
This summer and fall, some Midwestern producers are turning to irrigation as a solution to their weather-problems. With rainfall still lower than usual in parts of the Corn Belt, many farmers have been forced to embrace irrigation systems or risk stunted harvests.
“I’ve got 240 acres of irrigated corn and 100 acres of dry-land corn,” said one Minnesota farmer. “If I had 340 acres of all dry land, I wouldn’t be combining hardly any corn this year.”
While irrigation offers important relief from the searing weather, it also may offer a temporary relief for many Midwestern states. Some officials in Minnesota’s Department of Resource Management are issuing studies to determine if long-term use of irrigation can deplete groundwater reserves.
Despite these fears, many farmers say that they need to be able to irrigate in drought years. “Nine out of 10 years, if we’re going to have a crop failure, it’s drought,” said the president of the Irrigators Association of Minnesota. “By putting my irrigator in there, that’s my insurance policy. I don’t know if I’d be farming if I hadn’t had the ability to irrigate and count on a crop. You put a lot of money into this, and you want to get a crop out of it.”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer