Don and Elma Plett have been farming in Gem for over 30 years, growing a variety of seed, grain and forage crops with alfalfa seed being the main product during most of that time. Although flood irrigation had become less labour intensive with levelled land and the use of gated pipe, Don was still looking for ways to eliminate the need for border dykes.
A trip with some Southern Irrigation representatives in 2013 to observe drip irrigation in Texas was what sold Don on subsurface drip irrigation (SDI). Not only did it eliminate the need for border dykes but also made it possible to precisely control the amount of water applied at any given time, and he could maintain his
rectangular fields with uniform irrigation into each corner.
Don installed a small five-acre SDI test plot the spring of 2013, followed by expansions of 30 acres in 2014, 40 acres in 2016, and a PMDI pivot retrofit in 2017. Of particular interest has been a small portion of the initial 30 acre installation. It had been stripped to provide clay for rebuilding a local county road and the resulting conditions left it susceptible to salinity. For years Don had been trying to grow crops there with very little success, causing him and others to question the wisdom of installing SDI in that area. The decision was made to go ahead and install drip anyway. He harvested a good crop from that unproductive land the very first year with drip, and continues to do so. He finds the soils are looser and the salt problems lessen each year.
The Gem-based producer is very happy with his drip irrigation system and recommends drip to other farmers. He sees huge potential for crop yield and quality increases due to being able to apply water and nutrients at the right place, at the right time, and in the right amount through the use of SDI and PMDI.