Monsanto says they use “R-1 Water” and “drip tube irrigation”. What do those terms mean and why do they matter?

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Q: Monsanto says they use “R-1 Water” and “drip tube irrigation”. What do those terms mean and why do they matter?

A: The natural resources we use to operate our farms are of utmost importance to fulfilling our commitment to sustainability. We care deeply about protecting our island’s natural resources, including our island’s most valuable and limited resource – water. According to Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations (FAO),agriculture is the world’s largest consumer of water. Between now and 2050 the world’s water supply will have to feed and create livelihoods for an additional 2.7 billion people. As such, it is essential to identify ways to preserve this precious resource.

Monsanto Hawaii is continuously looking at opportunities to implement new procedures to save water, and is working to refine our irrigation programs at our farms in Hawaii. So far, Monsanto’s investments in sustainability have led to an additional savings of approximately 40 million gallons of water per year. Two of our essential water-saving strategies are our use of R-1 water and our installation of drip tube irrigation.

R-1 Water:

Although surrounded by ocean, Hawaii suffers extreme droughts. Hawaiians depend on aquifers and surface water for potable water supply; however, more than 70% of this water is used to irrigate farm crops, golf courses and residential and commercial landscaping. For this reason, it is important that technologies be utilized to recycle water for irrigation purposes in order to preserve Hawaii’s natural supply of drinking water.

To combat this issue, at our Piilani Farm on Maui, all landscaping irrigation, toilet water and agricultural irrigation systems use non-potable recycled water (R-1) purchased from the Kihei Wastewater Reclamation Facility. R-1 water is recycled wastewater that has been treated to a level suitable for industrial processing, irrigation and other non-drinking uses. The R-1 designation is the highest grade of reclaimed water by Department of Health standards and thus has minimal restrictions for reuse. Recycled water is good for the environment and it costs less than other new water sources. In addition to conserving drinking water, wastewater reuse reduces the release of nutrient-rich wastewater in streams and rivers.

As part of our commitment to water conservation, in 2010, Monsanto signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Maui County – pledging to use more R-1 if it were to become available.

Drip Tube Irrigation:

In addition to using recycled water to conserve resources, we irrigate our fields using drip line due to its efficiency in delivering water in an environmentally friendly way. Drip irrigation, is both an economical and efficient way to irrigate most forms of plant life due to the fact that this method of irrigation has an efficiency rate of over 90%, this is especially true in areas where water is scarce.

Drip tubing is made from polyethylene and has emitters that are placed at intervals along the tube that correspond with the placement of each plant, which ensures that water is delivered directly to the roots. Irrigating in this manner is not only very precise and efficient, but it also conserves water because of the low flow-rate that is required. Because of the low flow-rate and direct application to the roots of the plant, using drip tubing for irrigation also reduces evaporation and runoff.

While the drip line method reduces the amount of water needed to grow a crop, it also creates rubbish from discarded irrigation tubing. Over time, as we accumulate the used drip line, Monsanto Hawaii bales and sends them away for recycling. On Maui, we recently recycled 222,040 pounds of plastic drip line, keeping it out of our island’s landfills.