South Carolina farmers can have their irrigation systems audited for water and energy use with a three-year Mobile Irrigation Laboratory pilot project through the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, S.C. Department of Agriculture and Aiken Soil and Water Conservation District.
The pilot program will help state officials determine if the program can be implemented for farmers statewide at no cost, according to a news release from SCDNR. The pilot program was announced Wednesday at the 2020 SC Agribiz & Farm Expo in Florence.
The pilot program will provide free water and energy audits on 24 agricultural center pivot irrigation systems throughout the state. The Aiken Soil and Water Conservation District is leading the initiative after it was approached by an area farmer with the idea.
“We felt that as a soil and water conservation district, we had to make the effort to establish this MIL pilot project,” said Yvonne Kling, Aiken Soil and Water Conservation District chair, in the news release. “We also wanted to ensure that this came at no cost to agricultural producers who were willing to participate. As a soil and water conservation district and agricultural community, we believe this is a proactive conservation opportunity that we cannot afford to miss.”
Primary funding has been secured through a federal agreement with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the SCDNR and SCDA assisted with state funding. Contributions were also provided by the Palmetto AgriBusiness Council, AgSouth Farm Credit and American Forest Management. The Clemson Cooperative Extension is assisting with the project and conducting similar studies on agricultural center pivots.
“By improving the efficiency of their center pivot irrigation systems, South Carolina farmers can save water, power and money, helping them feed, fuel and clothe more people while preserving our natural resources,” S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers said.
Applications for the first year participation will be accepted through Feb. 15. Farmers who are not selected for the first year are eligible for consideration in the second and third years.o