Great pumpkins, less water

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KSL) – With a crop built around a holiday tradition, a farmer sometimes has to break with tradition to make the best use of his fields.

It’s that time of year when pumpkins are coming out of the fields, into the stores and onto front porches everywhere. But this year, farmer Matt Peterson grew his crop of future jack-o’-lanterns using only one-third of the water his farm has traditionally used.

In this era of widespread drought and water shortages, some say the impressive water savings in Peterson’s Ogden pumpkin patch could be a model for other farmers.

“We grow about 60 acres of pumpkins every year,” Peterson said as he walked through a field of green, littered with the giant orange fruits that are so popular this time of year.

Peterson, whose farm does business under the name Ogden Bay Produce, has water shares in a canal company that allows him to take water for 19 hours every 7 days. In earlier years he’s poured 1,500 gallons per minute into his fields during his watering periods.

“Now,” Peterson said, “I’m pumping 500 gallons a minute and I’m using that to water this entire farm. So that’s one-third of what I’m allotted to use. Same amount of production, same number of acres.”

As he pointed to water gushing over a spillway, he said, “Actually, all this water going over the spillway is considered wastewater to me because my pump’s not using it. So I have an agreement for that to go down and water the neighboring farm.”

So, how did he manage to save two-thirds of his water?

He started by ordering a textbook from Amazon and taught himself the principles of drip irrigation. The old method — flood irrigation — basically just allows water to flood through the field by flowing down the length of the furrows. The water has to soak through the dirt sideways two or three feet to reach the roots of the pumpkin plants.


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