When it Comes to Precipitation, What Will the 2017 Growing Season Bring?

By Cheryl Herrick

As we look ahead to our work in the fields this spring, summer, and fall, we’re again thinking a lot about water. Agricultural water quality is a hugely important issue both in and out of Vermont, and newly in focus now as Vermont’s Required Agricultural Practices have taken effect.

A hands-on watering systems workshop for livestock farmers.

Of course, it’s not only the regulatory climate that has changed, but the actual climate as well.  Like everyone whose livelihood is tied up with the health of the land, we’re paying attention to rainfall, severe storms, periods of drought, soil erosion, and their impacts on farmers’ and communities’ lives.  Staff and faculty from the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture are observing, documenting, and sharing so that we can help Vermont’s farmers and communities thrive in spite of increasingly uncertain conditions.

Joshua Faulkner, Farming & Climate Change Program coordinator, has gathered a short list of observations and recommendations about water management on Vermont farms.

1. There is much uncertainty associated with climate change, especially precipitation. Dependable weather patterns are a thing of the past; an extremely wet month may very well be followed by an extremely dry month. Predictability is at an all-time low. Furthermore, even though climate change will bring us more rain year-to-year, the pattern will likely be of intense storms, separated by very dry periods.

2. Irrigation will be needed more and more to provide resilience to the uncertainty of climate change and ensure even, consistent water for crops through the growing season. A recent study projected that irrigation demand in Vermont would increase steadily over the next several decades to be 1.75 times what it currently is (McDonald and Girvetz, 2013).

3. When choosing an irrigation system, drip irrigation is a great choice compared to overhead or sprinkler systems, for a number of reasons.

Drip systems:

4. Seeking more information on irrigation and other elements of water management for Vermont farms?  Here are some resources and opportunities:

-Cheryl Herrick manages communications and the office at the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture and lives, writes, and cooks in Burlington.

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