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CIR1220 Irrigated Acreage in Florida: A Summary through 19981 A.G. Smajstrla and D.Z. Haman2 1. This document is CIR 1220, one of a series of the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date June 1997. Reviewed December 2005. Visit the EDIS Web Site at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu. 2. A.G. Smajstrla (deceased), former professor, and D.Z. Haman, associate professor, Agricultural and Biological Engineering department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611. The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Larry Arrington, Dean Overview Irrigation is a necessary production practice for most crops in Florida despite the humid climate and average rainfalls of 45 to 60 inches per year. Most Florida crops are irrigated because typical sandy soils and non-uniform rainfall distributions often result in soil moisture below levels required for optimum production. Also, many high-value specialty crops are grown in Florida, and large economic returns can be obtained by using irrigation to maintain optimum soil moisture levels. Finally, irrigation systems are extensively used for environmental modification, including frost or freeze protection and crop cooling. These practices are required for economical production of many Florida crops. This publication reports irrigated acreage in Florida by crop and by irrigation system type. It documents growth in irrigated acreage from 1954 through 1998. It also compares Florida's irrigated acreage with that throughout the United States. The data source for the current irrigated acreage information in this circular is the Irrigation Journal's 1998 Irrigation Survey. Historical data from 1954 through 1987 were obtained from the Census of Agriculture, U.S. Bureau of the Census. The Irrigation Journal's data were compiled from the Journal's annual survey of irrigated acreage. Their survey is conducted by a survey of irrigation and water management specialists in each state. The authors of this circular contribute the Florida data to that survey. We compile information from several sources: 1) The Florida Agricultural Statistics Service's annual crop survey data, 2) other Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) publications, 3) communications with IFAS faculty, 5) communications with other irrigation and water management specialists in the state, and 4) personal knowledge of Florida irrigated agriculture. There are four major classifications of agricultural irrigation systems based on the method of water application: sprinkler, micro, surface, and seepage (subirrigation). In the Irrigation Journal's surveys, irrigation systems were classified as sprinkler, low-flow (microirrigation), and surface/gravity (including seepage and subirrigation) types. Because surface and seepage irrigation systems were not separately reported in the Irrigation Journal's surveys, they are listed as gravity-flow systems in this circular.
Irrigated Acreage in Florida: A Summary through 1998 2 U.S. Irrigated Acreage Irrigation is extensively practiced in the United States. In Figure 1, the total U.S. irrigated acreage is estimated to be 62.4 million acres. Irrigation is more widely used in the arid and semi-arid western U.S. than in the humid east. In this figure, the western U.S. is defined as those 17 of the 48 contiguous states located west of the Mississippi River. Alaska and Hawaii acres are included in the eastern state totals. Of the total 62.4 million U.S. irrigated acreage, 75.8% (47.3 million acres) is in the western states, while only 24.2% (15.1 million acres) is in the eastern states. Figure 1. Figure 1 shows that gravity-flow and sprinkler irrigation systems each account for approximately 48% of the U.S. irrigated acreage and that most of this is in the western states. The total U.S. gravity irrigation system acreage is 30.0 million acres, of which 74.9% (22.5 million acres) is in the western states and 25.1% (7.5 million acres) is in the eastern states. The total U.S. sprinkler-irrigated acreage is 29.6 million acres, of which 77.5% (23.0 million acres) is in western states and 22.5% (6.6 million acres) is in the eastern U.S. Latest available figures show microirrigation accounting for only a small portion of the total U.S. irrigated acreage. The total U.S. microirrigated acreage is just 4.5% (2.8 million acres) of the total 62.4 million irrigated U.S. acres. Of these, 66.6% (1.87 million acres) is in the western states, while 33.4% (0.94 million acres) is in the eastern states. Florida's Growth in Irrigated Acreage Florida's irrigated acreage has increased more than five-fold during the last four decades. Figure 2 shows that the total irrigated area was 428,000 acres in 1954. By 1998, it had increased to 2.23 million acres. Note: The 1954-1987 data are from the U.S. Census of Agriculture reports, while the 1990-1998 data are from the Irrigation Journal's annual irrigation survey. Figure 2. Figure 2 shows a reduction in irrigated acreage from the 1978 to 1982 surveys. This was primarily the result of two factors: 1) severe freezes which killed citrus trees and reduced citrus acreage, and 2) rapidly increasing fuel costs which reduced irrigation of pasture and other low-cash-value crops. Other than these years, Florida irrigated acreage has increased with each U.S. Census of Agriculture Survey. Florida's Irrigated Acreage Ranking Florida ranks 9th in total irrigated acreage in the U.S. with 2.23 million acres (Figure 3). Florida's irrigated acreage is 3.6% of the U.S. total irrigated acres and 14.7% of the 15.1 million acres irrigated in the eastern U.S. Figure 3 shows the 10 states leading in irrigated acreage. Most of these states are located in the western U.S. About 39% (24.3 million acres) of the total U.S. irrigated acreage is located in three western states: California, Nebraska and Texas. Florida (No. 9) and Arkansas (No. 5) are the only eastern states that rank in the top 10. Figure 3.
Irrigated Acreage in Florida: A Summary through 1998 3 Florida's Gravity-flow Acreage Florida ranks 10th in gravity-flow (surface and seepage) irrigation system acreage in the U.S. with 980,000 acres (Figure 4). This is 3.3% of the 30.0 million U.S. gravity-flow acres and 13.0% of the 7.5 million gravity-flow acres in the eastern U.S. Figure 4. Figure 4 shows the 10 leading gravity-flow irrigated acreage. Most of these are located in the western U.S. The only eastern states that rank in the top 10 Arkansas (No. 3), Mississippi (No. 9), and Florida (No. 10). Florida's Sprinkler Acreage Florida ranks 11th in sprinkler acreage in the U.S. with 675,000 acres (Figure 5). This is 2.3% of the 29.6 million U.S. sprinkler-irrigated acres and 10.1% of the 6.6 million sprinkler-irrigated acres in the eastern U.S. Figure 5. Figure 5 shows the top 11 sprinkler-irrigated states. Except for Florida (No. 11) and Georgia (No. 8) all of these states are located in the western U.S. Florida's Microirrigation Acreage Florida is a national leader in microirrigation acreage (Figure 6). With 578,000 acres, Florida is second only to California's 1.53 million acres. The other eight states in the top 10 each have 129,000 or fewer microirrigated acres. Figure 6. The leadership of California and Florida in microirrigated acreage is emphasized in Figure 7. California has over one-half of the total U.S. microirrigated acreage, while Florida has almost as many acres as all of the other states combined. Florida's microirrigated acreage is 20.5% of the U.S. total of 2.8 million acres. This is 61% of the 941,000 microirrigated acres in the eastern U.S. Figure 7. Crops Irrigated in Florida In Figure 8, Florida's crop types are classified as fruit crops, field crops, vegetables, grass/hay (pasture and forage) crops, and ornamentals. Of Florida's 2.23 million irrigated acres, 37.6% (840,600 acres) are fruit crops, 35.9% (801,300 acres) are field crops, 14.7% (328,500 acres) are vegetables, 8.8% (196,000 acres) are pasture and forage crops, and 3.0% (66,600 acres) are ornamental crops. shows the distribution of fruit crop acreage by crop type. One crop, citrus, dominates with 814,000 acres, which is almost 97% of the fruit crop acreage.
Irrigated Acreage in Florida: A Summary through 1998 4 Figure 8. shows the distribution of field crop acreage by crop type. Again, most of this acreage is in one crop. With 439,000 acres, sugarcane accounts for 55% of the field crop acreage. Irrigation System Types in Florida Florida's irrigated acreage, classified by irrigation system type is shown in Figure 11. This figure shows that most of the 2.23 million acres in the state are irrigated by gravity-flow (seepage and surface) systems, followed by sprinkler and lastly, microirrigation systems. Figure 11. Approximately 43.9% (980,000 acres) are seepage and surface irrigated, 30.2% (675,000 acres) are sprinkler irrigated, and 25.9% (578,000 acres) are microirrigated. Gravity-Flow Irrigation Most of the gravity-flow irrigation system acreage in Florida uses the seepage irrigation method. The primary crops irrigated with this method are sugarcane and vegetables on high water table muck soils and vegetables and citrus on poorly-drained sandy soils. Except for flood irrigation of rice and citrus, surface irrigation is rarely used in Florida. Microirrigation Most of the microirrigated acreage in Florida is in citrus, using the microsprinkler (or microspray) method for irrigation and freeze protection. Some ornamental crops and other fruit crops are also irrigated with microsprinklers, while some vegetable, citrus, and ornamental crops are drip-irrigated. Sprinkler Irrigation Sprinkler irrigation systems used in Florida can be classified as solid set, center pivot/lateral move, portable, and large gun systems (Figure 12). Solid set sprinklers are primarily permanent systems used to irrigate citrus, other fruits, and ornamental crops. Center pivot and lateral move systems are permanent self-propelled systems primarily used to irrigate field crops, pasture and other forage crops. Figure 12. Portable sprinkler systems are used for a wide variety of crop types, primarily vegetables, field crops, forage crops, and ornamentals. Large guns, especially traveling guns, are also used for a wide variety of crops, including fruit crops, field crops, vegetables, pasture, and forage crops. The distribution of sprinkler acreage by system type is shown in Fig. 12. Of the 675,000 sprinkler-irrigated acres in Florida, 34.96% (236,000 acres) are irrigated with solid set systems, 27.11% (183,000 acres) with center pivot and lateral move systems, 9.78% (66,000 acres) with portable systems, and 28.15% (190,000 acres) with portable and traveling guns. Summary Because of the low water-holding capacity sandy soils, non-uniform distribution of rainfall, and the
Irrigated Acreage in Florida: A Summary through 1998 5 sensitivity to water stress of many high cash value crops produced, irrigation is widely used in Florida. Except for a reduction due to crop freeze damage and rising energy costs in the late 1970's and early 1980's, irrigated acreage has increased with each survey from 1954 to 1998. A wide variety of crops is irrigated in Florida, including fruit crops, field crops, vegetables, ornamentals, pasture and forage crops. Irrigation methods extensively used in Florida include gravity-flow (primarily seepage irrigation), sprinkler, and microirrigation. Florida is one of the leading states in irrigated acreage, ranking 9th nationally and second in the eastern U.S. in total irrigated acreage. Nationally, Florida ranks 10th in gravity-flow irrigated acreage, 11th in sprinkler irrigated acreage, and 2nd in microirrigated acreage. About 20% of the nation's microirrigated acreage and 61% of that in the eastern U.S. is in Florida.