University of Kentucky Brings Revolutionary Irrigation System Home from Myanmar

In *All, Agricultural Systems, Water Security by AgIsAmerica

Brent Rowell, a professor at the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, has spent a chunk of his career in Myanmar. During his time there, he tested and instructed farmers on how to install and use a gravity-fed drip irrigation system that can operate under extremely low pressure. After perfecting his method abroad, he realized that American farmers whose fields don’t have access to electricity or water, or those who just want to reduce their water bill, could also benefit from this “revolutionary” irrigation system.

“It’s a real game-changer. It often doubles farm income right off the bat,” said Rowell. “With drip irrigation, the water is there at the plant roots when it’s needed, plant growth is so much better, the yields are higher, the quality of the product is much higher and prices are better in the market.”

To help him bring this successful technology into American farms, Rowell is joined by UK horticulture assistant professor, Krista Jacobsen. They’re currently testing tiny solar-powered bilge pumps with low-pressure drip irrigation at UK’s Horticulture Research Farm. They have also installed this system at GreenHouse17, a domestic violence shelter with a working cut-flower farm in Central Kentucky. This system is able to irrigate the fields more efficiently and use water more effectively.

“We love it. It’s awesome,” said Jessica Ballard of GreenHouse17. “I love that it’s just using rainwater and not city water. But I really like the pressure for that system. Even though it’s low pressure, the pressure we get from running (tap) water from the (main) building is terrible. The job of watering is more efficient with this system. We’ve been looking to add an additional system.”

Rowell has introduced this system to over 100 Natural Resources Conservation Service agents across Kentucky, and other countries have shown interest. For more information on drip irrigation and why it is so effective, read more here.


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