By Elizabeth Niven
“Aqua View was the best piece of equipment on my farm last year,” said Aaron Jackman, Nebraska farmer and Aqua View participant. “Being involved in this project has opened my eyes so much to water usage in the field and moisture management in the soil. It is the best return on investment of anything I have used on my farm.”
Calling the Aqua View system the best ROI on the farm is a sentiment echoed by many irrigation farmers in the water-challenged regions of Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. With limited rainfall and water restrictions, these farmers increasingly require a system that maximizes water use and customizes the seeds and planting to their specific needs.
For those farmers with Aqua View systems, the results are glowing and quantifiable.
According to Fontanelle’s Aqua View Lead Nick Lammers, 2010 results revealed that the average Aqua View customer saved three rounds of water per field, or roughly 10.5 million gallons of water per pivot. If those numbers are extrapolated, including the 60 percent increase in Aqua View systems in place in 2011, last year Aqua View farmers saved a combined 8,419,097,700 gallons of water.
Fontanelle’s Aqua View® initiative, introduced four years ago, is a systems approach of water management tools that includes quality seed genetics, educational programs and support services designed to help growers in irrigated areas maximize the value of their limited resources and seeds and traits. Fontanelle Hybrids, a Monsanto regional seed brand, has a large customer base in which 50 percent of the area already has limited rainfall or water-pumping restrictions from local resource districts. With the installation of moisture probes, growers are able to respond to water needs on a customized basis and only water when needed, saving costs associated with unnecessary watering.
“While we promote Aqua View through our seed dealers and seminars, word of mouth from satisfied customers has spread the message for us,” said Lammers. “We know it’s all about results. If we save money with reduced irrigation but decrease the yield, then we haven’t helped the farmers with their profitability. It’s more than just having a probe in the field, it’s a whole systems approach. We collected data, and then helped them interpret and make planting and watering decisions based on what we know. And the system continues to evolve with new technology.”
While farmers have a variety of tools and access to data, water is the most critical part of the whole production.
“Having the probes in the field gave me an instantaneous reading of moisture content, which gives me confidence in making daily decisions,” said Brant Peterson of Winsome Farms. Peterson farms 17,000 acres outside of Johnson, Kansas, of which 5,000 are irrigated.
Peterson found he was able to spread water over more acres, giving him a higher yield per gallon. “I slowed down my systems and applied more water per pass than previous years,” he added.
The QTV (qualify the value) tests show that with strategic applications of the correct amount of water, the Aqua View systems increase yields by more than 5.5 bushel per acre.
“With corn at $6 per bushel,” said Lammers, “each Aqua View grower received an extra $30 per acre advantage from their yield increase. Coupled with the energy cost savings valued at $11.35 per acre, Aqua View growers saw a new profit increase of $44.35 per acre. This means that growers can save water and increase profits in areas that already allocate water.”
While Peterson was happy with his results, his praise of Aqua View was on the long-term solutions and valuable service it provides, “There are no surprises with the product – but I’m impressed with Fontanelle’s commitment to provide, maintain, and service a quality and beneficial product. In my opinion Fontanelle has set a very high mark for what a quality, turnkey, value added product should be.”