Preston Jimmerson knows the life he’s chosen will not always be easy. He grows cotton and peanuts on hundreds of acres in the lower Flint River Basin in southwest Georgia.
“Being a farmer, there’s a lot of long days and nights and a lot of hard work,” he says. “But there are times when you’re out on the tractor out in the field and you’re by yourself, and you think that you’re doing the same thing in the same place that someone did hundreds of years ago, and there’s just something serene about it. It makes you feel like it’s more than just you – you’re preserving a heritage that America was founded on. ”
A husband and father of two young children, Preston feels the responsibility of providing for his own family and a growing world. “With the agricultural lands available now shrinking due to development and the number of people in the world growing exponentially, it’s going to be much more critical to be as efficient as possible.”
Innovative Water Conservation Practices
In southwest Georgia, and many other places around the world, efficiency means using less water. As global drought conditions continue and demand increases, farmers struggle to grow the crops needed to feed and clothe the world. And sometimes, heavy crop irrigation can mean that native and threatened plants and animals fight to survive as more resources are used to produce the things we need.
“With the need now to grow more with less… the only way we can do that is through efficiency, and the biggest tool we have to do that is technology. ”
Preston eagerly signed up to bring innovative water-saving practices to his fields. These practices were developed by researchers and then brought to working farms like Preston’s through a powerful partnership made up of The Nature Conservancy, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District.
Water Only Where You Need It
One technology allows farmers to irrigate more precisely, shutting off water-spraying nozzles over ponds, roads or other areas where crops don’t grow. “We’ve been able to micromanage exactly which part of the fields get watered,” he says.
Another tool, soil moisture sensors, gives Preston and other farmers real-time data about how much water is in the ground. “We can better predict when we should irrigate, or whether we should irrigate at all.”
These practices are paying off for Preston and many other farmers in the area. “There’s no more running to the field each day and trying to decide if I need to irrigate today or whether I can wait until tomorrow. It’s given me the confidence to know that I’m doing the exact right thing at the exact right time.”
This confidence allows Preston to know that he is teaching his children an important lesson. “If I can get involved now and lead [my children] in a positive direction then at the end of the day, that’s the biggest gain.”