Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Wyoming Welcome

So last week I had the opportunity to again visit Wyoming.  Although you may not think so, there is quite a bit of high production agriculture there.  But it's mainly in several key areas.
One of those is down in Southeastern Wyoming where there is ample irrigation water to grow some high yielding field crops.  This is the family farm near Lingle run by Chris Cook, a 100% AgroLiquid user now for several years.  I have reported on previous visits, and it's always a pleasure.  Chris grows alfalfa, corn and pinto beans.  His alfalfa regularly yields in the 9 Ton range which is phenomenal.  It wasn't always that way, back several years ago using dry fertilizer.  But since using Pro-Germinator, accesS, Sure-K and micros, production and quality has soared.  In fact, all of his hay is now shipped to a large dairy in Colorado that produces milk for Wal-Mart.  And he said that there is a code on the jug that lets them know that the hay for that cow's milk came from their farm.  Now that's really farm to table!  So here they are baling a recent cutting.  
They also grow irrigated strip-till corn with all AgroLquid.  He is regularly in the finals for the Wyoming Corn Growers high-yield contest.
And here is a nice field of pinto beans under a new pivot.  He says he really likes center pivot irrigation for the speed and uniformity compared to managing furrow irrigation.  Probably most people aren't aware of furrow irrigation.
With furrow irrigation there is a large water pipe on the edge of the field that has a slide-door or gate over a hole that lines up with the furrow.  Prior to irrigation, a furrow is made with a tillage tool to give the water a clear path.  Obviously the field must be flat.  With some fields, a "sock" is attached to the pipe and the water flows through the sock and down the furrow. The sock prevents erosion where the stream of water would hit the soil.  But you can only run so many furrows at a time due to water supply.  So after a period of time, ranging from 8 to 24 hours depending on the size of the field, the gates are closed, socks removed, and move on down the pipe.  This must be done every day.  So farmers with furrow irrigation have a hard time getting away during irrigation season.  So we just attached the socks and opened the gates in this field of pinto beans.  And yes, I said "we".  Although probably more of a hindrance than a help, Chris schooled me in the art of sock attachment and water flow regulation.
With the Cook's, irrigation management is a family affair, with his wife and two young boys.  Here we are at a field of corn that is tube irrigated.  
You stick the end of the tube in the water, cover the other end with your hand, shake it up and down a couple times to create suction, and set it down quickly so the water will siphon from the source to the ground....and down the furrow.  I watched and learned.
And after a couple shakes, I proclaimed myself an expert.
So where does all of this water come from?  Well we often hear tales of the wisdom of our forefathers, and that is truly the case here.  At the turn of the last century, spring snowmelt and river flooding would put this ground under water, backed up to the mountains.  Well back around 1910, they graded the ground, built large water canals, and then implemented a water distribution system that would pull the water out of the canal and move it all around this valley so that they can irrigate. Otherwise it is a desert.  They are still using these irrigation systems that were built over 100 years ago.  There is no way we could afford to build something like this today, and would it last 100 years?
Here is one of the big canals which doubles as a rock skipping place.
There is always a challenge though, and that is with algae, or "moss" as it's called, clogging up gates and pipes.  Here we see a clump at one of the risers that feeds the pipes.  So you are always pulling it out of the gates.  It comes out of the canal, and they do put up screens at places to block it.  But some still gets through.
So I enjoyed the day with the Cook family, as I always do.  We also talked about crops, soil tests and fertilizer.  This picture was from the night before in Torrington, WY  
Just like in Central Michigan this summer, what looks like rain clouds is only a tease.