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Albin News

 


Albin News Readers,

Monte here after a one year hiatus which began with the birth of our second son. On Sunday, Mr. Tavin Ronald Lerwick turned one year old. He unwittingly celebrated by grabbing a handful of delicious chocolate frosted cupcake while all the people at the table sang a strange song. Mom usually isn’t that careless with cupcakes so he made sure to quickly jam as much as possible in his mouth once he got it there.

Please don’t expect a regular supply of news from me, but I aim to start submitting more news now. A huge thank you to Charlene for continuing to report all the news that otherwise wouldn’t make the news. I feel she has done a superb job of reporting the facts with a liberal amount of wit and charm. After all there is no boring news, just boring news reporters.

In Ag news, we just went through a year where agriculture was at the top of national news for much of the summer. We saw brutally hot winds and record water demand for crops in this area starting in March and continuing all the way through late fall. There was enough residual soil moisture to make a dry-land wheat crop, but the late summer hard grasses never had a chance to grow. We saw rough cow hay triple in price even as the hay trucks started pulling loads out of the Montana, the Dakotas, and Canada. There was just enough fall moisture to keep the farm and pasture land hanging by a thread all winter as we stood helplessly watching the next spring approach. Many sold off part or all of their cow herds in anticipation of another drought year. It came down to whether or not we would get a spring rain before a hot dry wind. With less than a foot of soil moisture, an actively growing wheat crop would have folded up an died within days if we would’ve had a March like 2012.

Thankfully it was not to be. March turned cold and gave us two beautiful thick heavy blankets of snow just as the frost went out. The snow seemed to melt from the bottom up and was quickly sucked into the parched ground with remarkably little runoff. George Wayne Jacobsen remarked “you could live 80 years and not see another snow than that one, the timing and way it came were just perfect!”

Now with a little breathing room and less livestock, the Albin community has started into another crop year. It’s nice to see the pastures have put on enough growth to stand some light grazing and still have enough growth to catch snow and hold the ground down this winter. Most of the dry-land wheat will go to harvest and the irrigation wells are holding pressure so far.

As an irrigater, I’m not shooting for top wheat yields this year. There’s a diminishing rate of return on irrigation water just like fertilizer and everything else. The same six ac-inches of irrigation needed to take wheat from 80-95 bu/ac now, may be what’s needed to take corn from 120-170 bu/ac later this summer. With the general aquifer level down it’s a year to shut down pivot irrigation on hot windy days (especially where there’s no crop canopy yet), not be afraid to stress irrigated corn between six leaf and tasseling, and leave room for a rain in your moisture profile for when it does decided to come.

Speaking of irrigation, the last 40 years in the Albin area have brought huge advances in crop production through pivot irrigation. Most people probably don’t understand pivot irrigation roughly quadruples the production capacity of an acre of land in this area.

It’s time now though to reconsider our approach to irrigating and come up with a solution that will let us irrigate for at least the next 40 years.

It’s a complicated issue but in a way it’s simple. Our aquifer is in a slow but steady decline because on average we are over producing it. There are a certain unknown number of gallons that can be pumped out sustainably every year and on average we are pumping out too many. If you believe that, which it’s pretty hard not too given the data we all saw at the Albin Farm and Garden show this spring, then it just comes down to a number. What percent efficiency do we need to improve by to flatten out that decline? Is it 5 percent, 10 percent, 15 percent? There are a lot of things that we could do to reduce our water usage by this ballpark percentage as irrigaters.

With that in mind, here’s a few numbers to think about. On a quarter section pivot, the end gun on a pivot kicks out roughly 10 to 15 percent of the water going through a pivot but only waters about 6 percent of the acres. You would think then that the land irrigated under the end gun would have better yields, but we all know it doesn’t. In my experience yields are off 10 to 20 percent where the end-gun waters. End guns are used to water further into the pivot corners and around obstacles like power lines. In some cases, wouldn’t it would make sense to bury power lines and put an extension on the pivots if we could reduce water use by even 5 percent on the whole pivot and maintain the same yields? At a minimum if a quarter section pivot is nozzled to less than 600 GPM, it seems the economics favor putting all the irrigation water out under the pivot spans where it can soak into the ground more efficiently.

Another cheap solution to improving water efficiency is putting more drops per pivot span, putting extensions on and running a lower pressure. All of these things will increase water droplet size and reduce the distance it has to travel before hitting the ground.

Finally, pivots can be controlled much cheaper and precisely if remote controls are installed. For example, they can be programmed to turn off at 11 a.m. and back on a 5 p.m. on hot days. Also, they can be programmed to shut off exactly at the right spot on half-pivots and set to warn operators immediately if there is a problem with the pivot or well. On wiper pivots they can be programmed to speed up near the stops if automatically reversing. On hilly pivots they can automatically speed up over the lower producing areas. It doesn’t take much fine tuning to add up to another 5 percent efficiency.

Well I’m running out of time and have probably ruffled enough feathers for one article. Suffice it to say there are lots of profitable solutions. Ignoring a problem that is 40 years in the making is not a profitable solution.

Thanks to all the people who came up to Albin to help us celebrate our annual festival. We had 255 people register throughout the day, 70 enjoyed breakfast, 280 ate lunch with us, and many more took in the games, craft fair and water fights.

Charlene Smith

Jillian McLaughlin and the Albin Day committee outdone themselves again. What would our summer be without these dedicated community members putting together an awesome celebration for all to enjoy. We are blessed. Thanks for another fun festival!

Raffle winners this year were; Archie Johnson for $25, Amy Zitek for $50, Riley McLaughlin for $75, Steve Trimble for $100 and Chris Veurink for $150. Thanks to all who bought over 1300 tickets. You all helped in funding the 2014 Albin Day.

Things will slow down around town now as we settle in for a long hot summer. But this weekends cool down was sure welcome for our guests, the athletes and the firemen who lit the fireworks. Bet it made it a lot less stressful with the gentle rain falling.

 

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