Conservationist reports strong interest on subject
By SEAN ELLIS
NAMPA, Idaho -- Updates on how drip irrigation systems in the region are faring and an overview of potential new surface water storage opportunities are expected to be two of the hot topics during the Treasure Valley Irrigation Conference Dec. 6.
The conference, which draws about 100 people from Idaho and Eastern Oregon, is sponsored by University of Idaho and Oregon State University.
Two mint fields in southwestern Idaho became the first in the state to be watered using drip irrigation systems this year and conference organizer Jerry Neufeld said a lot of farmers want to know how they fared.
"There is a lot of interest in it; a lot of people are watching to see how it goes," said Neufeld, a UI extension educator in Canyon County.
James Eller, district conservationist with the local Natural Resources Conservation Service, which helped fund the two projects, said he has fielded calls from a lot of people interested in the projects, including farmers from Washington.
"We will talk specifically about the financial savings involved with installing the drip system," he said.
Participants will also hear from Robert McKellip, the first farmer in Idaho to irrigate a mint field using a drip system. He will talk about how the 56-acre field fared.
Those interested in drip irrigation will also hear from Clearwater Supply Agronomist Jim Klauzer about early efforts to irrigate field corn in Idaho using drip systems.
Because of the large initial investment involved, drip irrigation isn't typically associated with field corn, but Klauzer said high corn prices have sparked more interest in the practice.
Clearwater and UI researchers are doing extensive research on the impacts of irrigating field corn in Idaho with drip systems and Klauzer said the initial results are encouraging.
He said UI data showed field corn planted this year on the corner of a pivot and watered by a drip system produced higher yields than the corn watered by the pivot, despite being planted three weeks later.
"I'm optimistic about corn on drip, but it exceeded what my expectations had been," he said.
The event will include an overview of ongoing studies on surface water storage opportunities by the Idaho Water Resource Board. One of the most promising is the potential Weiser-Galloway project on the Weiser River, which could result in a new dam that would hold about 900,000 acre-feet of water.
Helen Harrington, manager of the IWRB's water planning section, will also discuss studies exploring storage opportunities on the lower Boise River in southwestern Idaho and the Henry's Fork basin of the Snake River in southeast Idaho.
The studies are looking at several options, "but surface water storage is the option the board is primarily interested in looking at," Harrington said.
The conference will take place from 8 a.m.-4:15 p.m. at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Nampa. For more information, contact Neufeld at 208-459-6003.