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Workshop Will Teach Water Saving Techniques for Small-Scale Growers

ALBUQUERQUE - Small-scale growers can learn about inexpensive irrigation techniques that cut water use in a March 18 workshop in Santa Fe.

The Navajo Indian Irrigation Project 's main canal delivers 1,285 cubic feet of water per second from Navajo Dam to crops at the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI). Through its Rio Grande Basin Initiative, NMSU researchers are helping NAPI and other irrigators conserve water with new technologies, improved irrigation practices and public conferences such as a small farm irrigatation workshop March 18 in Albuquerque. (03/10/2004) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by J Victor Espinoza)

New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service is sponsoring the workshop as part of the Rio Grande Basin Initiative, a joint project with Texas A&M University to improve water quality and conservation along the Rio Grande corridor.

The workshop targets small-scale growers with limited resources, said George Dickerson, Extension horticulture specialist.

"Large-scale growers can invest in things like laser-leveled fields and expensive drip irrigation systems," Dickerson said. "At the workshop, we'll teach about inexpensive irrigation systems and water-saving techniques that work well on small farms."

Extension water quality specialist Craig Runyan will talk about low-cost drip systems, including installation, types of drip lines, pressure regulators, water quality's effect on drip systems and automated switches to turn water on and off.

Leroy Romero from Rancho de los Golondrinas will teach inexpensive ways to supply water for drip systems by diverting it from irrigation ditches.

"Traditional systems are costly, because growers need to dig large wells to supply water to the system," Dickerson said. "But small-scale growers can divert water from acequias to holding tanks equipped with small pumps and filters. The system is good for irrigating small acreage, and it's less expensive than traditional systems."

Rudy Garcia of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will teach about measuring soil moisture and planning irrigation schedules based on need. "The goal is to irrigate when soil is dry, rather than just turn the system on every day," Dickerson said.

Extension fruit specialist Ron Walser will talk about microsprinklers for orchards and vineyards. The sprinklers, which use 30 to 40 percent less water than flood irrigation, mist the ground beneath trees and vines. Water softly sinks into soil, avoiding runoff.

Walser and agricultural specialist Charles Martin will discuss collapsible gated pipes that can be rolled up and stored at the end of the growing season. Runyan will talk about low-cost bubbler systems that flood targeted areas.

Ken Podborney of the USDA will talk about gopher control. Gophers often chew at drip lines and bore tunnels that drain water away from crops. Dickerson will discuss plastic mulches to reduce evaporation and control weeds.

Steve Guldan, superintendent of NMSU's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde, will present an NMSU acequia study that shows seepage from unlined canals has benefits, such as replenishing shallow aquifers, despite reduced irrigation efficiency.

The workshop costs $20. It runs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Cooperative Extension Complex at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds, 3229 Rodeo Road.

For more information, call Patrick Torres at (505) 471-4711. If you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, please contact Torres in advance.