From the St. Johns River Water Management District
The St. Johns River Water Management District’s agricultural cost-share program afforded Cherrylake farms the opportunity to adopt technology to reduce the farm’s water use by more than a million gallons of water a day.
The St. Johns River Water Management District is accepting applications through Sept. 8 from farmers, growers and ranchers interested in participating in the district-wide Agricultural Cost-share Program funding for agricultural projects that promote water conservation and reduce nutrient runoff.
“Working with the agricultural community ensures sustainability for the environment by encouraging more efficient water use and practices that reduce nutrient runoff,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “The projects also provide lasting benefits to farmers, growers and ranchers by reducing pumping and fertilizer costs while minimizing impacts to the environment."
Since the Districtwide Agricultural Cost Share Program began in 2015, nearly $16 million has been made available to ag producers. More than 11 million gallons of water per day (mgd) has been conserved, while annual reductions in total nitrogen are estimated at 442,876 pounds and in total phosphorus at 80,594 pounds.
The cost-share program provides up to 75 percent of cooperative funding, not to exceed $250,000 per applicant annually, toward the design, construction and implementation of technologies and strategies to improve water efficiencies and protect natural systems.
Eligible projects include irrigation system retrofits, soil moisture and climate sensor technology, rainwater harvesting, sub-irrigation drain tile, tailwater recovery and reuse, expanded waste storage, and soil mapping with variable rate fertilizer application.
Successful projects from previous years’ funding include several pump automation projects in Indian River County. With these projects, soil moisture sensors are used to communicate with controllers on the irrigation pumps. When the correct soil moisture is achieved during an irrigation event, the pumps are automatically turned off. Growers are also able to control their irrigation systems with their smartphones giving them control even when they are not in the grove.
At Cherrylake, a 1,000-acre ornamental tree farm in Indian River County, district cost-share grants have helped fund a state-of-the-art irrigation system guided by a miniature weather station that can be operated remotely from a phone or laptop, as well as an “intelligent” sprayer developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that has already shown a 40-percent reduction in the amount of fertilizer chemicals and pest management sprays used.
Through the district’s cost-share funding, precision fertilizer projects have resulted in less fertilizer being applied to crops through more accurate placement as well as variable rate application. With GPS controllers, growers can avoid overlapping fertilizer patterns and apply fertilizer in various portions of their fields based on varying soil types within the field.
The application and program overview for the fiscal year 2020-2021 cost-share program can be found online at www.sjrwmd.com/localgovernments/funding/agricultural-cost-share.
District staff will evaluate each project based on criteria approved by the district's Governing Board and prepare a recommended list for board approval in November 2020.
For more information, visit the district’s website or contact technical program manager Suzanne Archer at email@example.com.
St. Johns River Water Management District staff are committed to ensuring the sustainable use and protection of water resources for the benefit of the people of the district and the state of Florida. The St. Johns River Water Management District is one of five districts in Florida managing groundwater and surface water supplies in the state. The district encompasses all or part of 18 northeast and east-central Florida counties. District headquarters are in Palatka, and staff also are available to serve the public at service centers in Maitland, Jacksonville and Palm Bay.