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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Two irrigation methods on strip-tilled and conventionally tilled sugarbeets and barley

Authors
item Stevens, William
item Evans, Robert
item Iversen, William

Submitted to: The Sugarbeet Grower
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: January 1, 2007
Publication Date: February 1, 2007
Citation: Stevens, W.B., Evans, R.G., Iversen, W.M. 2007. Two irrigation methods on strip-tilled and conventionally tilled sugarbeets and barley. The Sugarbeet Grower. 46(2):4-6.

Interpretive Summary: Researchers at the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory in Sidney, MT are working to develop precision sprinkler management systems that address the current and impending economic, environmental, and social issues that irrigators face. They are conducting a study involving sugar beet-malt barley rotation grown under a linear move sprinkler system equipped with innovative equipment that allows the comparison of different irrigation practices. Begun in 2004, the study compares two high-efficiency sprinkler head designs within two sugarbeet tillage systems (conventional and strip tillage). The experiment is being conducted on a clay loam soil located on the Montana State University Easter Agricultural Research Center farm at Sidney, MT. The two sprinkler head designs evaluated are Mid-Elevation Spray Application, or MESA, and Low Energy Precision Application, or LEPA. Average barley yields show that production was similar with the two sprinkler head designs, with differences of less than 3 bushels per acre regardless of whether barley followed conventional tillage or strip tillage sugar beet production. The LEPA irrigation system used with strip tillage was beneficial for sugar beet production, with 12% more sugar being produced than with the combination of MESA and conventional tillage. Results from this NPARL study show the potential advantages of high efficiency sprinkler irrigation technology combined with reduced tillage for sugar beet production, but several questions remain to be answered. These tools, along with careful irrigation management, can reduce crop input costs by reducing water usage and energy requirements, thus conserving valuable water and fuel resources and reducing environmental impacts, all while protecting the producer’s bottom line.

Technical Abstract: Water is the lifeblood of society and an increasingly valuable resource in the semi-arid and arid western US. The growing incidence of water availability and quality issues is increasing the need for more efficient irrigation practices. A study was implemented to evaluating a sugar beet-malt barley crop rotation grown under different irrigation practices. Begun in 2004, the study compares two high-efficiency sprinkler head designs within two sugarbeet tillage systems (conventional and strip tillage). The two sprinkler head designs evaluated are Mid-Elevation Spray Application, or MESA, and Low Energy Precision Application, or LEPA. The conventional tillage system requires four field operations in the fall and a light spring tillage operation. With strip tillage, all seedbed preparation is accomplished with a single pass in the fall with a ripper-type strip tillage implement which also bands fertilizer directly below the seed row. Average barley yields show that production was similar with the two sprinkler head designs, with differences of less than 3 bushels per acre regardless of whether barley followed conventional tillage or strip tillage sugar beet production. When beets were grown using strip tillage, the subsequent barley crop yielded 12 bushel per acre less than when beets were grown using conventional tillage. Tillage system also affected sugar production with strip tillage producing an average of 850 pounds per acre more conventional tillage. This difference was due primarily to greater root yield with strip tillage as there was no difference in root sucrose content. The effect of sprinkler head design depended on the tillage system. Sugar yield with the two different head designs was very similar in the strip tillage system, but was about 700 pounds per acre less with MESA in the conventional tillage system than with any other irrigation-tillage combination. The reason for this difference is still unclear but it seems possible that the residue left on the soil surface with strip tillage may have reduced evaporation from the soil compared to the bare surface resulting from conventional tillage. Results from this NPARL study show the potential advantages of high efficiency sprinkler irrigation technology combined with reduced tillage for sugar beet production, but several questions remain to be answered.

Last Modified: 12/19/2014
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