MALIN — Drip irrigation, a method with the potential to reduce water use and save money, will be tested for a second season by Baley Trotman Farms, a major Klamath Basin potato producer.
“It’s part of the solution to being as conservative and efficient with the water as we can be,” said Mathew Trotman, farm manager for Baley Trotman Farms and an independent potato grower. “Our customers like to see we’re moving forward in new ways — green ways — of working with our crops.”
Trotman said Baley Trotman began using drip irrigation in 2012 on seven acres. This year the system will be used on nine.
“We’re going to do some things a little differently,” he said, calling last year’s use of drip irrigation a learning season.
Drip irrigation, which has long been used by commercial greenhouses and residential gardeners, is the slow, even application of low-pressure water to soil and plants using plastic tubing, called drip tape, placed directly in the plants’ root zone. Based on tests monitored by the Oregon State University Extension Service in Eastern Oregon’s Treasure Valley, successful use of drip irrigation results in little evaporation and zero runoff, while saving water and producing fewer weeds.
“With drip irrigation you can monitor how much water you’re putting on,” Trotman said. “It’s probably a more direct way to get fertilizer to the plant.”
Baley Trotman grows chipping potatoes on 1,300 acres of Klamath Basin lands. The operation also grows seed potatoes on another 150 acres, grows 1,100 acres of wheat and 200 acres of alfalfa. During the fall harvest season, the family-run operation — guided by Mark Trotman, Mathew’s father, and Lon and Nancy Baley — employs up to 60 people and is headquartered in Malin. The company’s major markets include Frito-Lay for potato chips and In-N-Out Burger for French fries.
Mathew, 27, who has a degree in small business management from Oregon Institute of Technology, said drip irrigation is being tested to determine if water can be used more efficiently, if potato yields can be increased and if potato quality can be improved.
“If we can show those benefits we will expand,” he said.
Drip irrigation offers other potential benefits as well, Trotman said. Customers want to see increased use of green technology.
“We like doing new and innovative things,” he said, noting the business also uses solar panels to generate electricity, which goes onto the power grid and provides the operation with offsetting credits.
“I like to say we’re one of the leaders,” Trotman said. “You develop a sense of pride.”