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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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ARRA - Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Laboratory (NWISRL), Kimberly, Idaho

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Link to ARS Recovery Act Info.


Link to USDA Recovery Act Info.


Link to White House's Recovery.gov site.
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Photo: Agricultural engineers attach a variable-flow sprinkler head to an irrigation system.

ARS researchers are developing more efficient irrigation systems.

Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Laboratory, Kimberly, Idaho

  • Scope of work under Recovery Act

Amount: $50,000

Repair of critical deferred maintenance including replacing critical HVAC controls and chillers.

Milestones- To be updated as milestones are completed.

Construction Photos


Research at the Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Laboratory

The Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Laboratory develops sustainable crop management practices for irrigated agriculture. Scientists have developed conservation practices to control soil erosion and nutrient runoff and to improve water use for irrigation, which helps improve profitability for potato, beet, forage, and dairy producers and ensured adequate supplies of these products while protecting our soil and water.

For example, researchers at the Lab also developed a product called PAM (polyacrylamide), which can virtually halt soil erosion caused by furrow irrigation. Adding 10 parts per million--about 1 pound of PAM per acre–to irrigation water cut field sediment losses to erosion by 95 percent.

In 1995, the first year of PAM's commercialization, farmers used the product on 50,000 acres, saving an estimated one million tons of soil.

Researchers at the Lab have also invented a new sprinkler head lets growers apply precisely the right amount of water and farm chemicals to each part of a field instead of managing an entire field as if it were uniform throughout in slope, fertility, and crop growth. The sprinkler head, which can reduce flow up to about 35 percent of a nozzle's full capacity, would allow growers to apply the correct amount of water to sandy, shallow patches within a field that drain readily and then less water to heavy clay spots that hold water longer. This avoids over-irrigating, which wastes water and can cause leaching of fertilizer or other chemicals into underground water supplies.

In addition, the Lab has also developed the first tall fescue grass, called "HiMag," that may protect cattle, sheep, and goats from grass tetany. Grass tetany, a condition that develops when ruminant livestock have too little magnesium in their blood, causes up to $150 million in livestock production losses each year in the United States. HiMag is unusually high in magnesium

Soil Management

  • Evaluation of dairy manure compost in a crop rotation.
  • Evaluation of PAM (polyacrylamide) to control soil erosion under surface irrigation.
  • Evaluation of PAM to control soil erosion under sprinkler irrigation.
  • Defining soil erosion processes under irrigation.
  • Evaluation of tillage/crop residue management cropping system under surface irrigation.
  • Evaluation of N placement/irrigation management on crop yields and N utilization.
  • Development of nutritional management practices for potato production.
  • Development and evaluation of forages for prevention of grass tetany.
  • Evaluation of factors affecting animal preference and forage quality.
  • Evaluation of soil-plant-animal interactions on selenium bioavailability to plants and animals.

Water Quality and Environment

  • Evaluation of soil hydraulic properties affecting water and solute movement in root and vadose zone.
  • Evaluation of the movement of nitrate and other soluble salts in the vadose zone of silt loam soil.
  • Evaluating the effect of PAM on water and solute movement below the root zone under furrow irrigation.
  • Evaluate the effect of PAM on the movement of weed seeds and microorganisms off of surface irrigated fields.
  • Evaluate the effect of different filter strips to trap microorganisms and nutrients in surface runoff.
  • Determine the relationship between selected soil P availability indices and the potential for P losses in irrigation and rainfall runoff.

Water Management

  • Determine crop water use for irrigation management.
  • Determine water losses from bare soil and grass surface during non-cropping portion of calendar year.
  • Evaluate the factors affecting water losses from different sprinkler head designs.
  • Evaluate different tillage systems to control/prevent surface runoff under sprinkler irrigation.
  • Compare a precision (drip) with a sprinkler irrigation system on crop yields.



Project Photographs Before Construction

Repairs to be done in Kimberly Repairs in Kimberly
Repairs needed in Kimberly  

Last Modified: 4/18/2014
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