The Complexity of Modern Agricultural Irrigation Demands Cutting Edge Pumping

Posted: 6/7/2013

Some might argue otherwise, but the need to improve the technology of food production represents probably the biggest challenge currently facing the world. It's a challenge we're all going to need to confront, but pump manufacturers more so than many others. After all efficient irrigation processes can literally double the amount of food a farm produces. But even with all of that inherent potential, roughly 80% of the world's farmland isn't being efficiently irrigated ... or so says reports courtesy of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. Of course, at least part of that number is attributable to the relatively high cost of proper irrigation equipment in the developing world. Stories of the transformative power of radically affordable irrigation technologies such as the Stairmaster-like treadle pump are ubiquitous. But wasteful irrigation techniques in the first world are as well.

Currently, flood, sprinkler and drip irrigation methods account for rough 22.0, 30.8 and 3.7 million of the 56.5 million farmed acres here in the U.S. respectively; according to the U. Department of Agriculture Census. Unfortunately the mere existence of those wasteful practices raises the specter of resulting environmental damage ranging from water shortages and erosion to soil salinization. Fortunately, better and more advanced watering systems can circumvent those issues. Using mechanized and sub-surface irrigation methods can save as much as 50% of the water typically wasted by that first list of systems and without resulting in smaller crop yields.

The pressures of production costs, water rights disputes and population growth have driven agricultural demand. Simple economic reality has created a demand for better techniques and newer technology. The very nature of agricultural is changing and farmers simply can't afford to rely on the technology or practices of the past. Today, a farmer choosing an agricultural irrigation method has to consider the complex interplay of sustainable energy consumption, water use and of course market conditions. But farmers aren't the only ones who need to focus on energy optimization and making better use of increasingly scarce water resources. Better and more efficient pumping systems will be necessary to provide optimized solutions for agricultural water use.

Since modern agriculture demands the application of a broader understanding of component integration, pump system manufacturers will need to do a better job of thinking through specific agricultural applications and designing pump technologies that match the resource stresses likely to afflict tomorrow's irrigation systems. Tomorrow's pumps will need to be capable of seamless integrating with various irrigation systems. Pumps designed to match-up with monitoring, intelligent management and pumping control systems are the way forward. Developing and offering pump systems along those lines will not only help ensure sustainable harvests and promote better water management; it'll foster increased profitability for farmers and pump manufacturers alike.

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