October 1953 AE Series No. 54-8
DOES IRRIGATION PAY ON YOUR GROVE?
Associate Agricultural Economist
Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
Available evidence from grove records accumulated over 21 sea-
sons by the Agricultural Extension Service and Agricultural Experiment
Stations does not indicate that it paid to irrigate the average grove
of these records in the manner irrigation was done over this period.
There were, however, individual groves that responded sufficiently to
irrigation for it to pay. At the same time, there were groves of this
group that would have made more money and the trees remained in good
condition had irrigation as practiced been omitted.
Each grower who irrigates should make a check in one or more
groves to determine whether or not irrigation is paying on his groves.
One good way to do this is to designate two or more middles that will
never be irrigated. Care should be taken to see that the same middles
receive no irrigation water at any time. Such middles should be well
within the grove and representative of the general grove area and vari-
aties in the grove. The yield from the rows of trees inside the area
should be compared with the irrigated portion of the grove, keeping in
mind irrigation cost.
From grove records obtained there appears to be no appreciable
accumulative benefits from irrigation as it has been practiced. That
being true, the measure of benefits is yield differences. In bearing
groves 11 years of age or older, if the yield is not increased sufficiently
by irrigation to more than pay irrigation costs, it would not pay to
practice irrigation as a general rule.
The accompanying table indicates the approximate number of
boxes of different kinds of citrus necessary to pay the cost of applying
two inches of water per irrigation per acre during the specified season
or seasons. Application charges at the present time of several care-
taking organizations were averaged to obtain the figure of $15.25 cost
for applying two inches of water per acre. Such charges vary for these
organizations with different groves according to distance from source
of water, distance of grove from caretaking plant, and other variables.
Growers owning their own equipment vary as to these costs. The average
of ~15.25 per acre appears to be representative enough for its use in
these calculations. Growers having irrigation costs widely different
from this figure should make their own calculations in this regard.
Ordinarily a grove may not be irrigated more than twice during
a season. The distribution of rainfall is such in some seasons to make
irrigating unnecessary. However, during some seasons some groves are
irrigated several times. The accompanying table includes data for four
Does Irrigation Pay on Your Grove?
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irrigations. When fruit prices are high comparatively few boxes are
necessary to pay for each irrigation. Fruit prices and yield increases
should be anticipated before irrigating in order to arrive at the number
of irrigations that might be applied without too great a loss on irri-
Temple oranges usually bring the highest on-tree price and,
consequently, fewer boxes are necessary to pay for an irrigation. In
1951-52 the season on-tree price of seeded grapefruit was 30 cents per
box and 51 boxes were required to pay for an irrigation cost of $15.25
per acre. Only 10 boxes of Temples were required for that amount in
the same season.
For irrigation to pay during the periods indicated in the
accompanying table, or for future periods when on-tree prices are the
same, yields must be increased in excess of the amount indicated for
irrigation to be profitable. If you irrigate your grove, check to
determine whether or not your irrigating is profitable.
Does Irrigation Pay on Your Grove?