Irrigation technology has fueled state’s crop production growth
At next week’s Husker Harvest Days, farmers will get a chance to view and experience the most modern agricultural technology on the market.
Over the last 41 years, farmers have seen exponential growth in new crop varieties and technologies that has led to the most productive era of agriculture in history.
When Husker Harvest Days began in 1978, the corn harvest that year in Nebraska was 762.750 million bushels. This year, farmers in the state are expected to harvest more than 1.8 million bushels.
This explosion of grain has changed the state’s landscape. To provide a market for the grain domestically, along with feeding livestock, the ethanol industry has boomed in the state.
Both Gov. Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Agriculture Director Steve Wellman recently returned from trade missions to Mexico and Vietnam, respectively. Mexico is Nebraska’s second largest agricultural export market, importing almost $300 million of corn annually from Nebraska, as well as $187 million of soybean products.
Leading irrigation state
None of this would be possible in Nebraska without irrigation. Nebraska, which sits atop the vast Ogallala Aquifer, is the nation’s leading irrigation state.
According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, irrigated and rainfed corn yields in Nebraska averaged 199.9 bushels/acre and 147.2 bushels/acre, respectively, in 2017. The U.S. average corn yield was 176.6 bushels/acre.
UNL said Nebraska’s irrigated corn yields are increasing at a rate of 2.169 bushels/acre per year. Nebraska rainfed corn yields are also increasing, but at a slower rate of 1.759 bushels/acre per year.
UNL said there were 5.278 million irrigated acres (56 percent) and 4.022 million rainfed acres (44 percent) of corn in the state last year.
Since 2008, irrigated corn acreage has averaged about 5.5 million acres. Rainfed acreage has doubled from about 2 million acres in the 1980s to about 4 million acres in the last five years.
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