Nav: Home

Water management grows farm profits

December 04, 2019

A healthy lifestyle consists of a mixture of habits. Diet, exercise, sleep and other factors all must be in balance. Similarly, a sustainable farm operates on a balanced plan of soil, crop, and water management techniques.

The western United States is a region with scarce water resources. In this case, water management techniques make up a larger piece of a sustainability plan. There is mounting concern around the globe about water scarcity. This is due to urban sprawl, depleting water supplies in some areas, and predicted water shortages in the future with less snowpack.

Water management techniques that lead to the optimal use of limited resources are not well-identified. Yet. Matt Yost, a researcher at Utah State University, is working to find the best combination of practices to maximize yield, profit, and water efficiency.

"Most cropland in Utah and the western United States is irrigated," explains Yost. "There are areas where groundwater from aquifers is being used faster than it can be replaced. Some of these areas are under intense pressure to conserve water."

Water for irrigation comes from aquifers far below the farm's surface. Aquifers are naturally refilled by water from the surface by precipitation. Increased water use can lower the water table. Eventually wells can go dry. These factors make water optimization crucial for food security.

Yost researches many water management techniques. These include using irrigation scheduling and advanced pivot irrigation technology. In addition, his team researches crop and soil management practices. They look at rotating in drought-tolerant crops, cover crops, and reduced tillage.

Yost's team works together with many farmers across Utah to do farm-scale trials.

"Irrigation research is tough and costly on farmer's fields," says Yost. "It's especially true when it comes to irrigation scheduling. Though difficult, this on-farm research and collaboration is crucial for the understanding and adoption of new water optimization techniques."

So, what is the best combination of management techniques to maximize yield, profit, and water efficiency? The answer isn't clear, yet. Results and analyses are still pending, but Yost offers some initial recommendations:

Advanced pivot irrigation technologies, such as mobile drip and low-energy precision application or spray application, are beneficial.
    -They can usually maintain crop yields with about 20% less applied water.

    -Most farmers may be able to reduce irrigation rates by 10% without affecting crop yields.

    -Biochar applications are showing few short-term crop yield or water saving benefits.
"We are beginning to answer questions about new irrigation techniques and scheduling approaches," says Yost. "But many still exist for discovery."

Next, Yost and his team hope to secure funding for long-term irrigation research sites. Water is a limited and vital resource. Strategies to optimize water use will be crucial to the sustainability of irrigated agriculture.

"In irrigated agriculture, agronomy and irrigation go hand-in-hand," explains Yost. "Nearly everything about one influences the other. Most irrigation programs focus more on engineering than on irrigation science. With my original training in agronomy, I've noticed knowledge gaps and have identified opportunities to unite irrigation science and agronomy." Yost's unique perspective offers a holistic approach to integrated water, soil, and crop management.

Yost presented his work at the November International Annual Meeting of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America in San Antonio. Funding for this research came from an Innovator Award from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture, Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, and the Utah State University Water Initiative and Extension Service.
-end-


American Society of Agronomy

Related Irrigation Articles:

Turned-down temperatures boost crops' penchant for production
Drought and heat put stress on plants and reduce grain yield.
Irrigation alleviates hot extremes
Researchers from ETH Zurich and other universities found evidence that expanding irrigation has dampened anthropogenic warming during hot days, with particularly strong effects over South Asia.
Specifying irrigation needs for container-grown plants
Open-field production of 524,000 irrigated acres of horticultural plants in the United States used 205 billion gallons of water in a recent year.
Water management grows farm profits
A study investigates effects of irrigation management on yield and profit.
Oil and gas wastewater used for irrigation may suppress plant immune systems
A new Colorado State University study gives pause to the idea of using oil and gas wastewater for irrigation.
Rice irrigation worsened landslides in deadliest earthquake of 2018 finds NTU study
Irrigation significantly exacerbated the earthquake-triggered landslides in Palu, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, in 2018, according to an international study led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) scientists.
Engineers produce water-saving crop irrigation sensor
Developed by the team of UConn engineers -- environmental, mechanical, and chemical -- the sensors expected to save nearly 35% of water consumption and cost far less than what exists.
Smart irrigation model predicts rainfall to conserve water
A predictive model combining information about plant physiology, real-time soil conditions and weather forecasts can help make more informed decisions about when and how much to irrigate.
UBC researchers explore an often ignored source of greenhouse gas
In a new study from UBC's Okanagan campus, researchers have discovered a surprising new source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions -- bicarbonates hidden in the lake water used to irrigate local orchards.
When irrigation efficiency increases, so does water use
Increased irrigation efficiency does not necessarily lead to reduced agricultural water consumption -- a paradox largely ignored by the public policies that seek to reconcile high water demands amid finite water supply.
More Irrigation News and Irrigation Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.