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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: IMPROVING WATER PRODUCTIVITY AND NEW WATER MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGIES TO SUSTAIN RURAL ECONOMIES

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: 2012 North Plains Research Field 12-200 Limited Irrigation Corn Production Study

Authors
item Marek, Thomas -
item Xue, Qingwu -
item Xu, Wenwei -
item Becker, Jake -
item Michels, Gerald -
item Howell, Terry
item Gowda, Prasanna
item Amosson, Steven -
item Guerrero, Bridget -
item Colaizzi, Paul
item Sweeten, John -

Submitted to: Experiment Station Bulletins
Publication Type: Experiment Station
Publication Acceptance Date: February 12, 2013
Publication Date: February 12, 2013
Citation: Marek, T.H., Xue, Q., Xu, W., Becker, J., Michels, G.D., Howell, T.A., Gowda, P., Amosson, S.H. 2013. 2012 North Plains research field 12-200 limited irrigation corn production study. Experiment Station Bulletins. Publication AREC 2013-5:p.1-60.

Interpretive Summary: This was a report of the third year of field study at the North Plains Research Field (NPRF) to evaluate the field based potential of producing 200 bushels of grain corn using only 12 pumped inches of irrigation water per acre. The 12 inches was strict criteria for the study and every effort was made to get the corn crop to the pollination stage before expenditure of the 12 inches should the season be void of ample or distributed rainfall. Total seasonal rainfall in 2012 amounted to 5.97 inches from May 1 to September 30. This amount was 66 percent more than received in 2011 but only 39 percent of the rainfall received in 2010. Even though increased rainfall fell in 2012 as compared to 2011, only six rainfall events above a 0.5 inch level occurred during the entire growing season at the NPRF site. 2012 yield results were significantly greater than that of 2011 but only averaged approximately 100 bushels per acre (5,600 lb/ac) for all of the hybrids. The 2012 yield levels fell well short of the study target. As in prior years, supporting plant growth and status characterization data were acquired throughout the course of the study. Plant population, biomass, initial and concluding soil profile moisture levels were recorded. Irrigation scheduling was conducted as in prior years with an advanced research irrigation scheduler program. The 3 year 12-200 study effort at the NPRF site gained valuable data regarding previously unknown data portions of the corn production function for the region. (Nationally, there appears more interest in this type work with the recent nationwide droughts.) In addition much characterization information regarding the specific varieties was gathered and can potentially be related to other "families of corn hybrids" and to those being developed. For instance, the data gathered indicated that one of the varieties had a pronounced tendency to be a "better" forage variety than a grain producing variety.

Technical Abstract: 2012 represented the third sequential year of research regarding the limited irrigation 12-200 corn production assessment study at the North Plains Research Field (NPRF) with the yield results being improved from that of the 2011 season but less than of the 2010 season. The study's purpose was to evaluate the field based potential of producing 200 bushels of grain corn using only 12 pumped inches of irrigation water per acre. The 12 inches was strict criteria for the study and every effort was made to get the corn crop to the pollination stage before expenditure of the 12 inches should the season be void of ample or distributed rainfall. The resultant study data was to subsequently be used to evaluate the feasibility of sustainable production and to address the economics of the production practice for producers should the effort ever be put into regulation. Overall, the study was conducted as a potential strategy in irrigation reduction and water conservation efforts within the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District (NPGCD) boundary. As in the previous two years, three commercially available corn hybrids thought to be top producing hybrids were evaluated in the study and all hybrids were consistent with prior year's selection unless the corn seed was no longer available in which case a very similar hybrid from the same seed company was used. This was the case for the Monsanto corn hybrid. The 2012 year study's cultural practice was also improved with the use of a new strip tillage implement procured by the NPGCD (North Plains Groundwater Conservation District) and provided to the NPRF. The unit allowed for less tillage operations and for an improved soil moisture retention approach derived from retained surface residue. It also allowed the study to be conducted on flat ground rather than beds; thus retaining more pre-season moisture as compared to a clean tillage production practice. Initially, it was outlined in the project that a seasonal rainfall of 10.5 inches was to be required to provide the total water necessary for 200 bushel per acre (11,200 lb/ac) production level based on a corn production function derived within the area. Total seasonal rainfall in 2012 amounted to 5.97 inches from May 1 to September 30. This amount was 66 percent more than received in 2011 but only 39 percent of the rainfall received in 2010. Even though increased rainfall fell in 2012 as compared to 2011, only six rainfall events above a 0.5 inch level occurred during the entire growing season at the NPRF site. 2012 yield results were significantly greater than that of 2011 but only averaged approximately 100 bushels per acre (5,600 lb/ac) for all of the hybrids. The 2012 yield levels fell well short of the study target. As in prior years, supporting plant growth and status characterization data were acquired throughout the course of the study. Plant population, biomass, initial and concluding soil profile moisture levels were recorded. Irrigation scheduling was conducted as in prior years with an advanced research scheduler. Selected portions of the study supporting data and discussion are contained within this report. New computer capable and controlled equipment obtained by Texas A&M AgriLife, the NPGCD and borrowed from the USDA-ARS during the course of this study significantly assisted in the efficiency of implementation of study operations in 2012 and is greatly appreciated. The 3 year 12-200 study effort at the NPRF site gained valuable data regarding previously unknown data portions of the corn production function for the region. (Nationally, there appears more interest in this type work with the recent nationwide droughts.) In addition much characterization information regarding the specific varieties was gathered and can potentially be related to other "families of corn hybrids" and to those being developed. For instance, the data gathered indicated that one of the varieties had a pronounced tendency to be a "better" forage variety than a grain producing variety. The 2012 NPRF effort involved many scientific and supporting personnel from the Texas A&M AgriLife-Amarillo unit research programs of agricultural engineering, agronomy, corn breeding, crop physiology, entomology and agricultural economics as well as agricultural engineering and remote sensing programs from the USDA-ARS at Bushland, Texas. Additionally, a regional crop consultant provided supplemental imagery data over the study site. In summary of the three year effort, this study essentially represents a probability based assessment of rainfall with adequate distribution that must occur, preferably during the growth periods prior to pollination, to allow the maximum flexibility in irrigation scheduling in the later stages of the growing season. The probability of receiving the nominal 10.5 inches amount of rainfall that is required to meet the total crop water needed for 200 bushel production is unlikely and is discussed within the report. The economic impact to producers of implementing a rigid water reduction measure to only 12 inches for producers is also discussed. Assumptions of the economic analysis are included and as producer costs vary across the Texas Panhandle, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service corn production budget values were used as the basis for evaluation. In summary, the consequence of a rigid irrigation restriction could have significant economic impact to producers, assuming that more irrigation capacity is available. In addition, the true need of addressing water conservation and irrigation reduction issues before a crisis status is attained cannot be overstated.

Last Modified: 8/27/2014