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Acres – Irrigated Land

Massachusetts Agricultural Census 2012

Massachusetts had a 2.4 percent decrease in the number of farms that use irrigation between the years 2007 to 2012, although the number of farms that use irrigation has increased a total of 98.6 percent between 1974 and 2012 (Figure 3.10). Irrigation is becoming an increasingly important activity on farms in Massachusetts. The total number of acres that were irrigated rose between 2007 and 2012 by 1.3 percent (Figure 3.11). Considering past years, it is difficult to assess whether the long-run trend in irrigated acreage is increasing or decreasing. While the past census year registers an increase, the previous two census years showed a downward trend in irrigated acreage. As can be seen from Figure 3.10 below, Massachusetts experienced a 7.1 percent increase in the number of farms that use irrigation from 2007 to 2012. As nursery and greenhouse crops increase in importance, we would expect an increase in the amount of irrigation.

From Figure 3.12, Plymouth County uses the most irrigation in farming activities by far compared to all the other counties. The amount of irrigated land rose 1.1 percent between 2007 and 2012, from 11,861 acres to 11,994 acres. Plymouth County has used the most irrigation because of the many cranberry bogs that account for much of that county's agricultural sales. The largest losses in irrigated acres were observed in Essex County, which saw a 30.5 percent decrease from 2007 to 2012. Hampden County's irrigated land was observed to have decreased by 25.1 percent, which is the second largest decrease between the years 2007 and 2012. Large decreases can also be seen in Hampshire, Bristol and Barnstable Counties, whose irrigated land dropped by 14.8 percent, 13.9 percent and 6.6 percent respectively. The largest increases in irrigated land can be seen in Norfolk (113.1 percent), Dukes (70.8 percent), and Berkshire (46.7 percent) Counties, although the large percentage increases do not translate into large increases in the absolute number of irrigated acres.  Norfolk County increased the number of irrigated acres from 273 to 582 acres, while Dukes and Berkshire increase the number of irrigated acres from 120 to 205 and 152 to 223 acres, respectively, numbers that are dwarfed by those of Plymouth County.

Table 3.1 shows the increases that occurred in the number of farms using irrigation and the number of acres irrigated. The two columns for farms and the two columns for acres reflect the changes that occurred in 1997 in counting farms. While it's difficult to identify clear trends, it appears that the number of farms using irrigation is rising while the number of acres irrigated may be declining, consistent with the increase in more small farms.

Table 3.1 Irrigated Land, 1974 to 2012
Year Farms FARMS ACRES ACRES
1974 879   18,512  
1978 966   16,753  
1982 1,000   17,331  
1987 1,316   20,158  
1992 1,336   19,090  
1997 1,630 2,021 24,564 26,820
2002   1,580   23,720
2007   1,630   23,133
2012   1,746   23,433
% CHANGE 74 - 12   98.63%   26.58%
% CHANGE 97 - 12   15.75%   14.45%
% CHANGE 07 - 12   7.12%   1.30%