Irrigation Leader Hobbs Touting SDI at Field Day
Monday, July 9th, 2012
Every grower wants to be as efficient with his irrigation and fertilizing systems as possible.
BB Hobbs will give growers a chance at the upcoming Sunbelt Ag Expo Field Day in Moultrie to see whether subsurface drip irrigation could be part of their plans to save on water, fertilizer and, in effect, cost.
“It’s a proven technique. We are just trying to get the word out,” said Will Young, who serves the South Georgia/North Florida region for BB Hobbs. “People are talking about SDI, but some are still leery, still holding back.”
The company will show off a three-acre demonstration plot at Field Day on July 12, an annual preview for the big show held in October.
“The technology isn’t new, but we are constantly looking for more efficient methods,” said Young. “With SDI, you do see better uptake” of water and nutrients.
Pushing forward to find more efficient irrigation methods and use of technology is nothing new for BB Hobbs.
Serving growers in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas, the Darlington, S.C.-based company has become a leader in irrigation systems in the Southeast over the past two decades. Specializing in the design, installation and supply of large, automated, drip and solid set irrigation systems, BB Hobbs also works with an affiliated company to manufacture the liquid fertilizer blends suitable for use in drip irrigation.
“When the company started in 1988, we were primarily an irrigation company,” said Young. “In a few years, we realized the importance of fertigation.”
Now, the company has Liberty Acres Fertilizer Corp., an asset that separates BB Hobbs from other irrigation companies.
“It was unique for us. We are still unique in the industry,” Young said. “As far as I know, there is not another company that manufactures the equipment and the liquid fertilizer.”
In addition to getting the most out of his investment in a drip irrigation system, a grower can save on fertilizer costs with a fertigation plan or maximize the yield from the same amount of fertilizer.
“If you are thinking in terms of per pound of fertilizer, the system is much more efficient,” Young said. “You’re using ¾ of the material if you were making dry applications. That is one of the reasons that it’s more economical.”
Granular application also limits the blend and how often a grower can apply fertilizer, since that method is more labor intensive.
With fertigation, he can apply multiple times a day and change the blend based on the lifecycle stage of the plant.
The product is tailored for the plant, but the manufacturer also keeps in mind the system that will distribute the fertilizer blend. BB Hobbs uses a clean formula that won’t cause settling or plug the line.
“When you consider the cost of paying a little bit extra for that blend, versus replacing all that drip tape if there’s a problem … there’s no comparison,” Young said.
While drip irrigation and fertigation technology aren’t new, BB Hobbs is seeing some growers make the change from no irrigation or spray irrigation to a drip method.
“Certainly there have been improvements in the emitters over the years, but the biggest changes are with the automation or technology of the irrigation equipment. Controllers are a lot better,” Young said.
Tractor technology, such as auto-steering GPS, has allowed farmers to protect drip systems from damage.
And as more South Georgia growers plant blueberries – which brought in $133 million across the state in 2010 – they’re installing drip irrigation systems. The high price of pecans also means some farmers want a more reliable yield than can be assured with natural rainfall.
The demonstration project at the Sunbelt Ag Expo will help growers explore the next step in irrigation: SDI.
Buried eight inches deep and 76 inches apart, the lines lose less water to evaporation and aren’t susceptible to damage.
Also on hand at Field Day, UGA Cooperative Extension agent Rad Yager will show the advantages of incorporating soil moisture sensors into irrigation management compared to standard irrigation scheduling methods.
Field Day is Thursday, July 12 beginning at 8:30 a.m.
For more on BB Hobbs, go to bbhobbs.com.