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USU receives $1 million grant to help farmers with irrigation

 Agricultural Sprinklers on a field
Robert So

Utah State University recently received a $1 million grant to support their Ag Water Demonstration, Research, and Implementation Program (Ag-DRIP). Farmers and irrigation workers will be provided with water management tools as they participate in the program to help optimize water use.

According to Burdette Barker, USU Extension irrigation specialist, the project will start with 25 farmers. Each farmer will undergo a professional evaluation of their current irrigation systems and will receive tools such as soil moisture sensors and water flow meters.

Farmers will then be paired with a local weather station to help predict their irrigation needs and trained to use an irrigation scheduling app with the goal of reducing their irrigation water use.

“So, they get kind of a complete package for a field and then assistance in developing a water management plan for the whole farm," Baker said.

Matt Yost, Agroclimate Extension Specialist, said this program serves to educate farmers on the value in tracking their water use and testing out alternative crops to grow. The program also compensates participating farmers, with the goal of reducing monetary losses as they explore new irrigation tools and drought-tolerant crops.

“Basically, to practice and demonstrate and try things to improve their water management so that the farmer is more productive, and that they can potentially market some of that water for other purposes," Yost said.

Yost said agriculture provides many different benefits to the environment, from fresh foods and increased productivity in soils to filtered water and animal habitats.

“And then there's a lot of social benefits, right? It's a way of life for a lot of people that they highly value. Many parts of rural Utah are centered around agriculture," Yost said.

According to Yost, the program is supported by two large water conservancy districts: Central Utah Water Conservancy District and the Colorado River Authority of Utah. These agencies have come up with programs to compensate farmers for using less water, which AG-DRIP aims to help prepare farms to participate in.

To learn how to apply for the program go to