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New irrigation research and tech helps Utah farmers produce food and save water

Earl Creech
Utah farm irrigation system

Matt Yost is a Utah State University professor in Plants, Soils & Climate and USU Extension specialist. He knows farming first-hand. He grew up on a dairy farm in Burley Idaho.

“My father still operates the farm, he milks about 200 cows and so I still get to go there with kids and still be involved with some aspects of the farm,” said Matt Yost.

Yost will be discussing one of the biggest challenges in agriculture – water management – at theUSU Research Landscape event Thursday afternoon at the O.C. Tanner headquarters in Salt Lake City.

“I think everyone’s aware that we are in a major drought, a record drought and it’s putting more pressure on all industries, especially agriculture, who uses a large portion of the water. But for a good purpose, for the food that we all eat and enjoy,” said Yost.

He will address the state’s efforts to optimize agricultural water use and new strategies on farms such as more efficient sprinkler systems, crop and soil management, and most importantly how farmers can cut back on water use with minimal impact.

One new technology he says is changing and making a big impact is an automated surface (or flood) irrigation system with a sensor that communicates with the farmer, letting them know when to turn it on or off from the convenience of their phone. He says a company in Logan, SAE engineering has been developing this kind of technology and it’s being put to use on the owner’s farm in Box Elder County.

“And it will make a lot of difference for many farmers, improve how they irrigate, it will save them a lot of time,” said Yost.

Craig Buttars, Commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, and Casey Snider, member of the Utah House of Representatives, will also participate in Thursday’s discussion on Utah’s agriculture and food producers.

Sheri's career in radio began at 7 years old in Los Angeles, California with a secret little radio tucked under her bed that she'd fall asleep with, while listening to The Dr. Demento Radio Show. She went on to produce the first science radio show in Utah in 1999 and has been reporting local, national and international stories ever since. After a stint as news director at KZYX on northern California's Lost Coast, she landed back at UPR in 2021.