The Anheuser-Busch Foundation has donated $100,000 to the University of Idaho and Montana State University for research aimed at helping barley farmers use less water and increase profitability.
The two $50,000 donations support research and promotion of Low Elevation Spray Application irrigation pivots, which move sprinklers closer to the ground, and can save growers up to 20% on water and energy.
The gifts are to further study the technology to prove its application in different crop rotations, and cost-share with growers in adopting it, said Jess Newman, U.S. director of agronomy for Anheuser-Busch.
"Water is precious in the Snake River watershed," she said.
Idaho is the largest barley-growing region in the U.S., with Montana close behind. Both are the most critical irrigated barley-growing regions, Newman said.
"We want to make sure this technology works not only in the barley part of the rotation, but also in potatoes, wheat and canola," she said. "Proving what kind of grades and slopes it can work on – we're excited to be supporting the universities as they help make that case."
The research will prove the technology has environmental and financial payback on the entire rotation, Newman said.
Most barley acres in the U.S. are malting barley. Most are grown by farmers under contract for a brewer.
Anheuser-Busch encourages farmers to use LESA technology, but does not require it, Newman said.
"What our growers choose to do on farm is completely up to them, but we believe there is a business case here, and our role is to prove that business case," she said.
Howard Neibling, UI Extension water management engineer, based in Kimberly, said early adopters are using the technology, but the gift allows use in more real-world, field-scale situations.
"They're not making any more water," Neibling said, citing more weather variability. He recommends growers work to deliver more water with their systems so they can keep up during hot weather.
"For every gallon pumped out of the ground, you're getting 15 to 20% more of it into the soil, and that's huge," he said. "Every gallon of water you save is one more you don't have to pump."
The technology helps combat grain diseases or lodging, he said.
The company works with roughly 800 barley farmers in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota, Newman said.
“The Anheuser-Busch Foundation’s support helps us to use Idaho's valuable water wisely and conduct industry-leading research with significant impacts for U.S. agriculture,” Michael Parrella, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Idaho, said in a press release. “We’re grateful for this generous gift and the positive change it will create.”
“The Anheuser-Busch Foundation gift will support state-of-the-art research to achieve higher yields and increased water efficiency for barley growers,” Darrin Boss, superintendent of the Northern Agricultural Research Center at MSU, stated in the release.