Quenching More With Less

Jeff Miller observes growing seedlings. Jeff Miller, founder of ForeFront Agronomy looks up as he observes growing seedlings in the soil.

The spray of water droplets hitting the sandy ground arc tiny rainbows in the summer sun. The big black tires of the pivot irrigation system inch forward acre by acre and soak the little two-leaved seedlings in an endless circle. It’s growing season on the High Plains. 

Jeff Miller, of Plainview, Texas, looks at the small plants in the sandy soil and assesses their condition, calculating what he is going to do to help this crop flourish through the growing season. Miller’s company, ForeFront Agronomy, specializes in measuring soil water and nutrients through soil probes and satellites to help keep the crop at the optimum level of growth and eliminate the irrigation guessing game. 

“Growing up in Hale and Swisher counties,” Miller said, “water is very near and dear to our heart because we don’t have enough of it. And so, we began utilizing technology to monitor and schedule irrigations and work around rainfall events when they do come.”

Miller said this technology has helped him understand crop nutritional needs and the interaction between water and nutrients in plants.

Why Measure?

Miller founded Forefront Agronomy in 2017 as a seed distributor, but as he noticed the struggle farmers were having with water availability, he wanted to provide some ways for farmers to maximize their investment on seed by measuring their water applications. 

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” Miller said, “and essentially we’re providing a reliable data stream to use to make better decisions.” 

Miller’s measuring capabilities allow him to only water the crop when it is essential, he explained. Based on the plant’s needs, he is able to pinpoint when the plant needs water and exactly how much to keep up with crop demand.   

In 2019, Miller met fellow crop consultant, Chad Wall, from Lubbock, founder of Natural Ecosystem Restoration, through a mutual client of theirs, and learned about a new applied technology in agriculture — structured water. During that time, Miller noticed the client’s crop was doing much better than it had previously with minor adjustments from Miller. 

“At the end of the season,” Miller said, “he (the customer) told me that he had put structured water devices on his pivot.” 

What is Structured Water?

A structured water device is attached to the sprinkler head.
The structured water device can be easily attached to the end of the sprinkler hose between the hose and the sprinkler head by screwing it onto the hose.

Gina Bria, from New York City, New York, founder of the Hydration Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to hydrating people, plants, animals and soils, said structured water is a form of energized water.

“Simply put,” she said, “structured water is water with molecules that have drawn close enough together to start sharing electrons that then create electrical charge.”

Bria said water becomes structured through natural processes that allow it to build charge. These processes are part of nature’s plan; rivers, waterfalls, ocean waves, sunlight, organic material, plant material, and minerals all create energy that helps water become structured. Rivers and waterfalls structure water by creating a vortex in the water.

“Structured water devices are a brilliant recovery strategy for getting water back to its most effective and natural state,” Bria said. “Through their vortexing effect they spin water like a natural spring. As the molecules spin closer and closer to each other they start sharing electrons, generating electricity.”

Water loses its structured state through chemical treatments and being forced through pipes, Bria added. Because it is not able to structure properly, it is not as easy for soil, plants and animals to absorb. Structured water changes the soil, making hydration more efficient and absorbable for the whole soil ecology.

“Simply by changing the phase of water we irrigate with,” she said, “and nothing more, we add…the lifeforce back into the soil.”

Jeff Miller shows how to connect the structured water device.
Jeff Miller demonstrates how the structured water device can be attached to the pivot hose.

Why Irrigate With Structured Water?

Wall said he was introduced to structured water after searching for more effective ways to apply chemicals to his fields. After first trying one structuring device on his house well, he noticed his animals and family seemed to be better hydrated. 

After these observations, he began to irrigate and experiment with structured water on his own fields and with his clients’ fields using more structuring devices. 

“We saw good results in what the water tasted like and saw changes in our animals and the things we were watering,” Wall said. “That made a believer out of me, so I decided to get involved in the industry and I have been trying to validate the effectiveness of the water for a few years now.”

“We’ve seen positive results in every field with the devices and better infiltration rates.”

Measuring Structured Water Effectiveness          

After seeing the success his client had in the 2019 growing season and learning about structured water, Miller agreed to help Wall collect some data to prove structured water improves crop health, acknowledging it as a reasonably priced solution to managing water.

“Going out there and putting these devices on a pivot and going by visual observation is okay,” Miller said, “but having the data behind it to support that is very critical.”

Miller and Wall collected data from three South Plains fields for these trials, one in Dawson County and two side-by-side fields in Crosby County. Structured water devices were attached to the end of the hose before the sprinkler head every 300 feet. Structured water devices cost $1,400 per quarter mile sprinkler pivot. Soil hydration and salinity levels were tested throughout the growing season on each field with Miller’s soil probes and measuring system.

Trial Results

Graph of Dawson County Water Study.
Results of the two-year field trial in Dawson County on one field. 2018 was monitored without structured water devices and 2019 was monitored with structured water devices. Less water was needed to meet crop demand in 2019. Yields were increased.

According to the trial, irrigation water usage was reduced by 20-30% on the field with structuring devices.

“With the device,” Miller said, “more water was getting into the soil and staying there for longer, letting us apply significantly less water over the season.”

Miller also noted salinity levels were improved in salty water and salty ground, contributing to a healthier crop.

“What we noticed with cotton was a bigger, healthier plant with more fruit on it,” he smiled. “It was just more vibrant, and green and lush, versus the prior year it was getting droughty looking towards the end of the season.”

Graph of Crosby County Water Study.
Results of field trial done in 2020 on side-by-side fields in Crosby County. One field had no structured water devices, and one field had structured water devices every 300 feet. Moisture and salinity levels were monitored throughout the season. The field with the devices produced more cotton with less water.

Miller said he will continue to test and use structured water devices in the future, acknowledging the positive results from the trials.  

“From the results we’ve seen over the past two years,” he said, “we’ve seen positive results in every field where the devices were used and better infiltration rates.”

Bria noted the efficiency of the devices and improved infiltration rates and hopes these devices will help farmers conserve their money and resources.

“Since 70% of our world’s fresh water is used in agriculture,” Bria said, “these devices and the farmers who use them can significantly contribute to our planet’s recovery.”