It’s no secret that we all need water. The thought that one day, fresh water could be a limited resource is frightening.
A large brewing company is funding research projects to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Idaho is one of the top barley producers in the country.
With agriculture being the single largest water-consuming industry, the Anheuser-Busch brewing company is making sure that barley growers are using water efficiency.
Anheuser-Busch contracts barley directly, with over 800 American farmers in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota.
The Anheuser-Busch Foundation split $100,000 between two universities to drive research on tools and resources that will better support the land.
Jess Newman, the director of U.S. agronomy for Anheuser-Busch, said, “We choose to work with the University of Idaho and Montana State in this irrigation efficiency program by giving them this gift. Both schools are in the biggest irrigated barley growing regions in the world. We want to find solutions that will not only benefit the environment but barley growers financially and drive efficiency on the farms.”
The funding supports the research called Low Elevation Spray Application, or LESA.
This study examines water usage pivots in the barley rotation.
Logan Schmidt, agronomist for Eastern Idaho, said, “Traditionally, pivot sprinkler nozzles are about 8 to 10 feet off the ground. LESA drops these pivots down to 24 to 36 inches off the ground. It just makes it so that water can get to the crop more efficiently. There is less evaporation and we can get the water down to the ground.”
Right now, fresh water is a resource we don’t need to leave our house to get. It’s hard to imagine that one day it might not be that simple.
“Going forward, we have to feed a lot more people by 2050. It’s important to look into the future and constantly make improvements. For us, as a company, it’s important what we strive to do better, be better, more efficient, environmentally friendly and make an impact,” said Schmidt.
He said this research will not just benefit barley growers but other local farmers and their crop.
“LESA technology can absolutely be applied to other crops. In fact, barley isn’t grown in isolation. It’s grown in rotation with other crops, like potatoes. The technology has to work for those crops as well. Otherwise, barley growers wouldn’t invest in it. That’s one of the research questions that we hope the university will work on,” said Newman.
Anheuser-Busch has worked with the two universities for the past four years developing the technology for LESA. Now that theory is being put to the test.
The schools were given the funds in June and, in that short time, they have already seen positive results for healthy farming.