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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: WATER MANAGEMENT IN ARID IRRIGATED AGRICULTURE Title: Irrigation on Level-Basin Field in Louisiana

Authors
item Branch, Bill - LSU AG CENTER, LA
item Daniels, Glen - LSU AG CENTER, LA
item Thomas, Dan - LSU AG CENTER, LA
item Ocampo, Luis - LSU AG CENTER, LA
item Clawson, Ernie - LSU AG CENTER, LA
item Clemmens, Albert
item Vories, Earl

Submitted to: National Cotton Council Beltwide Cotton Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: November 15, 2006
Publication Date: January 12, 2007
Citation: Branch, B., Daniels, G., Thomas, D., Ocampo, L., Clawson, E., Clemmens, A.J., Vories, E.D. 2007. Irrigation on level-basin field in louisiana. National Cotton Council Beltwide Cotton Conference, January 9-12, 2007, New Orleans, Louisiana. p. 889-894

Interpretive Summary: Irrigated agriculture uses about 60% of the freshwater diverted for use in the United States, with surface irrigation used on about half of the irrigated land. Yet surface irrigation has a reputation for poor performance. Surface irrigation is the preferred method for irrigating rice production and low value crops. However, rice producers in the southern U.S. need to be able to irrigate efficiently when raising other crops on rice fields, either for following recommended rotations or for economic reasons. Level-basin irrigation is being used for rice production as an alternative to contour levees on sloping fields. While cotton and many other crops are grown with level basins in arid areas with high efficiency, two problems exist for rice producers in humid areas. First, with heavy soils and potential high rainfall, surface drainage is required to avoid crop water logging. Second, pump flow rates for rice production are often too small for efficient level basin irrigation. Several growers in Louisiana have been growing a variety of crops with level basins and have overcome these limitations. This paper discusses these experiences and provides recommendation for use of level basins in Louisiana. This information should be useful to irrigation farmers, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, extension specialists, and agricultural consultants.

Technical Abstract: Land owners in Southeastern states have been grading fields to low (0.2%) slope to improve drainage and increase machine and irrigation water use efficiency. Some land owners are grading fields to zero slope (level-basin) for use in growing rice. Measurement by the YMD Joint Water Management District, Stoneville, MS, (Epting, 2003-2004, Powers 2005-2006) of water used in irrigating rice indicates significant water savings on level basin fields compared to other rice field irrigation designs. Louisiana growers have successfully used level-basin fields for rice and crawfish production and for duck hunting. Growers would like the option of growing cotton on level-basin fields when market prices, input costs or weed conditions support these crops in preference to rice. Cotton growers in Arizona have used level basins and have achieved high irrigation water use efficiencies. (Clemmens, 2000) One of the advantages of level basins for rice, crawfish or ducks is the low flow rate pump capacity required to manage the system. Flood irrigation of cotton requires getting the water on the field and draining it quickly to avoid damage to the crop. Low pump capacity requires more time to irrigate, thus possibly leaving the root zone saturated too long. Spin ditches are used to provide drainage for crops other than rice. Filling interior supply ditches prior to irrigating, using poly tubing, with or without gates, closer spacing (100') of spin ditches, irrigating at varying soil moisture depletions, and planting on a raised (4"-6") bed have been used in attempts to move water across the field more quickly. Best results have accrued to pre-filling supply ditches, closer spacing of spin ditches and planting on raised beds.

Last Modified: 12/21/2014
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