Friday, September 28, 2007

It’s Time to Put Ag Water Use In Perspective

Jon Holzfaster of Paxton, NE is a farmer and also is the chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. And he has some pointed thoughts about reports assuming that corn growers are poor stewards of the land.

Jon has written and released an editorial, It’s Time to Put Ag Water Use In Perspective, this week that is worth reading. In it, he shares his thoughts on the use of water for raising corn.

His main point is to put the raising of corn in perspective and to share facts about water usage in corn growing. Some of his key points include:
  • It is estimated that it may take around 1,750 gallons of water to produce a bushel of corn. That sounds like a lot, but did you know it takes 684,000 gallons of water per acre per year to irrigate a golf course? And that, on average, a homeowner uses 21,600 gallons to water his or her lawn each year?
  • Nearly 40% of the corn acres in Nebraska are non-irrigated, relying solely on rainwater. Even on irrigated acres, only a portion of the water needed to raise corn is supplied by irrigation. Across the U.S., 86% of corn does not utilize irrigation.
  • Irrigation efficiency has improved dramatically in the past 20 years.
  • According the U.S. Geological Survey, an acre of corn gives off 3,000-4,000 gallons of water each day through transpiration.
  • Our local Natural Resource Districts are doing a good job of monitoring water usage by irrigators. They are constantly checking water tables and many districts in the state have implemented ag water use limitations. Remember, we are just coming out of a seven-year drought. As rainfall returns to normal, water supplies will be replenished.
  • Just what do we get in return for the water used to grow corn. A bushel of corn produces three gallons of ethanol and 18 pounds of distillers grains that can be fed to livestock. Or it can be used to make 68 boxes of cereal. Or it can be turned into 22.4 pounds of corn-based plastic, which is more environmentally friendly than petroleum-based plastic.
Jon notes that Grand Island, NE officials are investigating ways to lower the groundwater table under the city. One city official said Grand Island’s groundwater table is at its highest level in 23 years.

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