JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Over 300 Region 8 farmers left work in their fields to travel to Arkansas State University on Wednesday.
The 19th Annual Soil and Water Education Conference and Irrigation Expo took place at ASU's Convocation Center.
Dean of the College of Agriculture and Technology Tim Burcham said the large turnout proved the urgency of the topic.
"I think farmers understand that we have a precious resource," Burcham said. "Water, in particular, and that our soil resources are so critical to us. As you know, we have some price pressure right now regarding our commodity prices and those kinds of things. And so, I think farmers are really looking at opportunities to enhance their operations and also be more fruitful in their production. Other words, to look at their bottom line and how come conservation practices might be able to help them in their culture production and the economics of farm production today."
Farmer Mike Sullivan is from Burdette in Mississippi County.
He's been a farmer for over 33 years.
"Water quality and quantity are really going to be an issue in the future," Sullivan said. "Water is a finite resource and we've got to learn different ways to conserve it. We're really blessed right here in the Delta that we have good water resources. But we have had some decline in our groundwater so we're working as a team with the researchers to try and figure out different ways to conserve water."
Burcham said their annual conference was not only about a vital issue but also had an appealing aspect.
"We do something here that a lot of other meetings do not," Burcham said. "We have farmer producers who are sharing the stage with academic experts that have helped them. Whether it's an NRCS person or one of our colleagues here at Arkansas State University. So, we have the farmer producers on stage that are relating how conservation practices have helped them. Whether it's production, conserving their soil, better utilization of water or reduced herbicide usage. So, when you come to this meeting one of the great components is to hear from actual producers that are implementing the latest technological innovations that we have that enhance soil and water conservation practices."
Sullivan said some of the research is actually being done on his land.
"We're cooperating with the ARS unit here in Jonesboro," Sullivan said. "They're doing a lot of research on our farm with water quantity and quality. There's just a ton of information here that's on the forefront of all the conservation initiatives through NRCS programs."
Sullivan said the information gathered and shared at the conference was invaluable.
"There's a lot of research that's going on," Sullivan said. "A lot of these researchers now through the ARS unit are taking it to the whole farm approach. We're trying to make it work from the small-scale research on the whole farm design. And it's really made a tremendous difference in the amount of water that we save. And when we're saving water we're also saving costs as far as the farmer is concerned. Because every time we have a well on its costing us through diesel and natural gas or electricity. Whatever our power source is. So, with crop prices depressed right now it's extremely important to save everywhere we can. And if we can save our groundwater and also save on the economic side without having to pump it's a win-win."
Around 370 people attended the conference.
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