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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Research Project #422661


Location: Soil and Water Management Research

2016 Annual Report

The long-term goal of this project is to prolong the economic activity derived from the Ogallala Aquifer by providing knowledge, tools, and technologies for water conservation and scientifically sound water use policies. Specifically, during the next five years, we will focus on: Objective 1. Improve the management of the Ogallala Aquifer by developing tools and knowledge of hydrological properties and water budget components. Subobjective 1.A: Improve the characterization of the Ogallala Aquifer including locations and rates of recharge. Subobjective 1.B: Integrate remotely-sensed data into water resource monitoring and decision support tools. Objective 2. Improve the efficiency by which agriculture converts water into food, feed, fuel and fiber. Subobjective 2.A: Improve irrigation scheduling technologies, strategies, and practices. Subobjective 2.B: Develop improved design, performance and management of irrigation control and application systems. Subobjective 2.C: Determine best management practices (BMP) for water-limited production of crop, fuel and forage in a semi-arid region. Subobjective 2.D: Improve knowledge of crop water demand and productivity at field, region and aquifer scales. Objective 3. Facilitate the adoption of water conservation practices by providing estimates of the socio-economic impacts of various water management activities and policies. Objective 4. Provide data, knowledge, and decision support systems to farmers, ranchers, water-policy makers, and the general public.

This cooperative project between the ARS (Bushland and Lubbock, Texas), Kansas State University, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, and West Texas A&M University, elucidates innovative management technologies appropriate for the Ogallala Aquifer region of the U.S. to enhance and sustain rural economies. The results are applicable to other areas in which there is increasing demands on the water supply. The in-research program addresses issues related to water management practices in cropping and integrated crop-livestock systems, and irrigation management and automation for increased water use efficiency (WUE). Knowledge of the processes affecting soil water content during a growing season will facilitate refinement of models to simulate water balance and assist in assessing the merits of alternative practices. Longer-term studies will be used to quantify effects of reduced tillage on crop yield, WUE, and soil physical characteristics for wheat-sorghum-fallow crop rotations and alternative cropping sequences. Several experiments focusing on different hydrological aspects and time scales will investigate management effects on soil water and availability to crops utilizing watershed, remote sensing, and meteorological networks. Research approaches related to irrigation management include determinations of crop water use by weighing lysimeters, neutron scattering methods, etc. Experiments include variations in irrigation methods, irrigation amount, tillage, and/or crop and crop rotation. Automatic irrigation systems based on sensing of crop water status are being engineered and tested. Remote sensing approaches to water use prediction are expected to improve their utility in decision making by farm managers, irrigation projects or water districts, and policy makers. University partners have critical roles in supporting the above activities as well as providing additional expertise in technology transfer, hydrology and economic assessments of existing and future water conservation technologies and policies. Support from cooperating university is evaluated annually. Work plans are developed for each project describing research to be conducted during a 2-year period. Yearly workshops are held with stakeholders and cooperating scientists; these workshops are used to review progress, re-define or clarify research priorities, and inform stakeholders, project leaders and administrators. Annual and final reports are used to document progress of the research.

Progress Report
Record breaking annual rainfall in FY2015 was less than ideal conditions for deficit irrigation and dryland experiments because the difference between precipitation and potential evapotranspiration was far less than average. However, extreme weather conditions in 2015 and 2011 for record breaking high and low annual rainfall, respectively, do contribute to the robustness of the location's data base extending back almost 80 years. Weather conditions so far in FY2016 are perfect for many irrigation experiments in that there was adequate soil moisture and temperatures for crop establishment. However, since mid-June precipitation has been sparse. In FY2015, a project scientist accepted Research Leader position at another location. A successful recruitment was concluded in January 2016 with the hiring of GS 12 Research Agricultural Engineer. Another research project scientist retired at the end of May 2016. A request to replace this scientist has been forward to the Plains Area Office and Office of National Programs. Another project scientist spent significant portion of FY2016 serving as the Acting National Program Leader for NP211. This same scientist was recognized as the Plains Area Senior Scientist. Several scientists in the project received an award for technology transfer related to the development of soil moisture sensors. This research project leads the Ogallala Aquifer Program (OAP), an ARS led research and education consortium seeking solutions to problems arising from declining water availability from the Ogallala Aquifer on the Southern High Plains. The consortium includes the NP211 research projects at Bushland and Lubbock, TX and Kansas State University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Service, Texas Tech University and West Texas A&M University. In the past, OAP research efforts by ARS scientists at the Lubbock, Texas were directed via a PrePlan review process that also determines support for research projects by the 4 cooperating universities. During the development of the PDRAMs for the new NP211 projects in Bushland and Lubbock it was agreed that Bushland would permanently transfer $400,000 to the NP211 project in Lubbock so that their contribution to the OAP could be documented in that unit's research project plan. Currently each OAP participating university has two NACA, one originated in FY2012 (project numbers 3090-13000-14-05S through 08S) and one originating in FY2015 (project numbers 3090-13000-14-09S through 12S). No FY2016 funds will be added to the FY2012 agreements; research projects funded under these agreements are nearing completion. Funds from FY2016 will be added to the FY2015 agreements to support research projects in FY2017 and FY2018. University collaborators in the OAP produced 16 publications in FY16 without ARS scientists as co-authors, of which 9 were from Kansas State University, 5 from Texas A&M AgriLife, and 2 from Texas Tech University. These are listed in the publications for this research project. In addition 4 publications with ARS scientists from Lubbock, TX (3) and Florence, SC (1) were published in FY16 from OAP supported research. These are reported in the ARS scientist's research project's annual report. Of the 11 accomplishments listed in this report, 5 had ARS scientists as PI, 3 had Kansas State University as PI, and Texas A&M AgriLife and Texas Tech University each had 1 publication with a scientist as PI. There are 7 other agreements associated with this research project. One CRADA (3090-13000-14-33C), one MTRA (ARIS log number 56861), and two with International Atomic Energy Agency (ARIS log numbers 52059 and 52522) are helping to advance the project's efforts to develop accurate and reliable soil moisture sensors that could be used to guide efficient irrigation scheduling. Another CRADA (ARIS log number 49894) is helping to commercialize infrared thermometers that ARS has developed to detect crop water stress and aid in irrigation scheduling. A third CRADA (3090-13000-14-28C), a small regional grant (ARIS log number 56474) and a large NIFA-USDA grant (3090-13000-14-34I) are supplementing the base's funded research regarding improving specific site water irrigation applications. Advances in these efforts are documents in the Accomplishments and Technology Transfer sections of this annual report.

1. Soil organic matter declined by over 40% after 80 years of cropping. Organic carbon and total nitrogen are important constituents of a healthy soil for crop production; however how soil and crop management optimize these parameters are not fully understood. Scientists from USDA-ARS, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, University of Texas at Austin, and Cotton Research Institute, Kibray District Taskent (Uzbekistan) evaluated long-term (30 - 86 yrs.) soil organic carbon (SOC) and total soil nitrogen (TSN) changes under dryland wheat-fallow and wheat-sorghum-fallow rotations on a clay loam soil in Bushland, Texas. SOC declined by 41% after 86 years of cultivation with half of the estimated change occurring during the first 20 years. Synthetic fertilizer N applications will need to be gradually increased with time to supplement native N sources. These results are of interest to farmers, crop consultants and extension agents who grow dryland wheat and sorghum or advise such growers.

2. Soil heating successfully modeled. Irrigated crops consume a large portion of freshwater resources, but irrigation results in up to four times greater crop production compared with non-irrigated crops. It is therefore important to manage irrigation water in order to maintain or increase crop production for a growing world population while conserving freshwater resources for municipal, industrial, environmental, and recreational uses. Management of irrigation water requires knowledge of crop water use; however, crop water use is related to numerous complex factors. One important factor is how much the soil beneath a crop is sunlit or shaded. Sun lighting and shading of the soil change with time of day, type of crop, crop row direction, and crop growth stage, among other factors. Scientists from ARS laboratories in Bushland, Texas and Beltsville, Maryland, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel developed and tested a new mathematical model to calculate soil sun lighting and shading beneath a row crop. The new model resulted in improved estimates of factors related to crop water use. The use of this model will improve irrigation water management and conserve freshwater resources.

3. Water models underestimates evapotranspiration (ET). Groundwater resources are finite and becoming increasingly scarce. Effective water and crop management strategies are needed to maximize and extend the use of these limited resources. In agriculture, crop water use is the major use of rain and irrigation water. Models are commonly used to evaluate alternative water management strategies for their potential to maximize water use efficiency. In this study, scientists from ARS in Bushland, Texas and Texas A&M AgriLife compared simulated daily and monthly ET from the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), one of the most widely used hydrologic models, under both irrigated and dryland management practices in the semiarid Texas High Plains to measured ET data from large lysimeters. Results indicated that the SWAT model generally underestimated both daily and monthly ET. Underestimation was worst under dryland conditions. These results indicate that the SWAT model is not accurately simulating a large water loss in semiarid regions.

4. Estimations for evapotranspiration (ET) were inaccurate. Accurate daily reference ET is needed for efficient water management from field to regional scales. To meet this need, scientists at National Oceanic and Atomspheric have developed spatially representative daily reference ET maps for the contiguous United States using data from non-agricultural weather networks. These maps are expected to be used as input into various water demand and availability models. In this study, scientists from ARS in Bushland, Texas, NOAA, U.S. Geological Survey, and Texas A&M AgriLife Research evaluated the accuracy of the NOAA reference ET maps was using data from the agriculture-based Texas High Plains ET network. Results showed that the NOAA reference ET values were generally higher than that from the Texas High Plains ET network. Therefore, a bias correction to air temperature and wind speed data used in generating NOAA reference ET or adjustment to the resulting NOAA reference ET may be needed to improve its accuracy.

5. Drought tolerant corn produces similar yields with less water. Corn is an important crop for feeding livestock in the Central and Southern High Plains of Texas. Drought tolerant varieties of corn are now available to farmers. However, there is little information to determine if these new varieties use less water than common varieties and produce similar yields. ARS scientists at Bushland, Texas and scientists from West Texas A & M University used soil water measurements to determine the weekly amount of water to apply to drought tolerant and non-drought tolerant corn varieties that were grown side-by-side. The drought tolerant variety required less water and produced similar yields when water was applied to meet the full demands of the crop or slightly less than optimal.

6. Water availability from the Ogallala Aquifer will be half in 2110. Water availability from the Ogallala Aquifer has been declining since the development of widespread irrigation in 1950. However, water users and policy makers have a poor understanding of future water availability. Therefore, scientists from Kansas State University in the ARS led Ogallala Aquifer Program applied approaches to estimate peak withdrawals and future depletion of oil reserves to groundwater withdrawals from the Ogallala Aquifer. Peak aquifer depletion occurred in 2006 and annual depletion will be less than half in 2110. Peak depletion occurred in 1999 and 2010 for Texas and Kansas, respectively. These results are of interest to farmers and water policy makers in making decisions regarding water conservation.

7. Cotton's future on the Texas High Plains remains bright. The Texas High Plains contributes about 25% of the U.S. cotton production; however, future production is uncertain because of dwindling groundwater resources from the underlying Ogallala Aquifer, and future climate variability. Scientists from Texas A&M AgriLife Research, ARS, Cotton Incorporated and IntegraShare Solutioneering Inc. working under the ARS led Ogallala Aquifer Program assessed impacts of climate change on cotton production using crop growth simulation models. The evaluated model was able to accurately simulate seed cotton yield under various irrigation strategies over the four growing seasons. Predicted changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide during the 21st century led to increases in predicted cotton yields, while decreases in groundwater availability decreased predicted cotton yields. These results imply that cotton production on the Texas High Plains will remain a viable option for agriculture despite changes in climate and decreasing groundwater availability.

8. Irrigation cannot overcome predicted decreases in corn and soybean yields due to climate change. Future crop yields on the Southern High Plains are uncertain because of the effects of climate change and decreasing water availability from the Ogallala Aquifer. However, information is needed to determine the role of irrigation application on abating the potential effects of increasing heat stress. In this study, scientists from Kansas State University in the ARS led Ogallala Aquifer Program and assessed the adaptive effects of irrigation on climatic risks for maize, soybean. Results show that irrigation has a significant effect on abating extreme heat in maize and soybean. Approximately two-thirds of the negative effects of extreme heat under rainfed management could be abated by irrigation. However, the remaining third of the yield reduction is caused by heat damage that cannot be alleviated by irrigation. Means other than irrigation will be needed to maintain corn and soybean yield under predicted changes in temperature.

9. Continuous corn has greater returns when groundwater is limiting. As water availability from the Ogallala Aquifer decreases, farmers need management options that optimize returns from limited irrigation water. Scientists from Kansas State University in the ARS led Ogallala Aquifer Program compared the response of corn, sorghum, sunflowers and soybeans to variable rates of irrigation water. When only 5 inches of irrigation water is available, yields and returns from corn, sorghum, soybeans and sunflowers were comparable. With 10 to 15 inches of irrigation water, returns from corn were higher than other crops. These results are of interest to farmers and crop consultants in helping to deal with low irrigation capacities.

10. Unique plant genetic resources maintain yields under drought and saline stresses. Fructokinase, an enzyme key to sugar metabolism, may alter how plants convert sugars into other carbohydrates. Scientists from Texas Tech University, Tohoku University, Henan Agricultural University, Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Karadeniz Technical University and Agricultural Research Organization, Volcani Center in an ARS led Ogallala Aquifer Program examined cotton lint fiber as affected by overexpressing professional fructokinase or sodium transporters. Plants overexpressing fructokinase had larger leaf area and enhanced lint yield, and plants with greater sodium transports could tolerate up to 250 mm sodium chloride. These results are of interest to plant breeders trying to create plants for water limited and/or saline environments.

11. Subsidies for water savings and water efficient crops will encourage water conservation. Scientists from Texas A&M AgriLife Research, South Dakota State University and Black Hills State University analyzed the effects of four conservation policies: 1) subsidy for efficient irrigation systems; 2) increased cost of water; 3) subsidy for water savings; and 4) subsidy for water efficient crops. In areas where groundwater is limiting subsidies for water savings and/or water efficient crops achieved water conservation. These results are of interest to water policy makers like those in the High Plains Water District in Texas.


Review Publications
Marek, G.W., Gowda, P., Evett, S.R., Baumhardt, R.L., Brauer, D.K., Howell, T.A., Marek, T.H., Srininvasan, R. 2016. Estimating evapotranspiration for dryland cropping systems in the semiarid Texas High Plains using SWAT. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. 52(2):298-314.
Colaizzi, P.D., Agam, N., Tolk, J.A., Evett, S.R., Howell, T.A., Oshaughnessy, S.A., Gowda, P. 2016. Advances in the two-source energy balance model: Partioning of evaporation and transpiration for row crops for cotton. Transactions of the ASABE. 59(1): 181-197.
Tolk, J.A., Evett, S.R., Wenwei, X., Schwartz, R.C. 2015. Constraints on water use efficiency of drought tolerant maize grown in a semi-arid environment. Field Crops Research. 186(2016)66-77.
Marek, G.W., Gowda, P., Marek, T.H., Auvermann, B., Evett, S.R.,Colaizzi, P.D., Brauer, D.K. 2016. Estimating preseason irrigation losses by characterizing evaporation of effective precipitation under bare soil conditions using large weighing lysimeters. Agricultural Water Management. 169: 115-128 doi:10.1016/j.agwat.2016.02.024.
Mounce, R.B., Oshaughnessy, S.A., Colaizzi, P.D., Blaser, B.C., Evett, S.R. 2016. Crop response of drought tolerant and conventional maize hybrids in a semi-arid environment. Irrigation Science. 34(3):231-244.
Baumhardt, R.L., Mauget, S.A., Gowda, P., Brauer, D.K., Marek, G.W. 2015. Optimizing irrigation strategies as influenced by El Nino southern oscillation Agronomy Journal. 107(5):1895-1904.
Marek, G.W., Gowda, P., Evett, S.R., Baumhardt, R.L., Brauer, D.K., Howell, T.A., Marek, T.H., Srininvasan, R. 2016. Calibration and validation of the SWAT model for predicting daily ET over irrigated crops in the Texas High Plains using lysimetric data. Transactions of the ASABE. 59(2):611-622 doi:10.1303/trans.59.10926.
Ajayi, S., Krishna Reddy, S., Gowda, P., Xue, Q., Rudd, J.C., Pradhan, G., Stewart, B., Liu, S.Y., Biradar, C., Jessup, K.E. 0206. Spectral reflectance models for characterizing winter wheat genotypes. Journal of Crop Improvement. 30(2):176-195.
Evett, S.R., Howell, T.A., Schneider, A.D., Copeland, K.S., Dusek, D.A., Tolk, J.A., Brauer, D.K., Marek, G.W., Marek, T.M., Gowda, P. 2016. The Bushland weighing lysimeters: A quarter century of crop ET investigations to advance sustainable irrigation. Transactions of the ASABE. 58(5):13031/trans.58.11159.
Baozhen, H., Xue, Q., Marek, T., Jessup, K., Hou, X., Xu, W., Bynum, E., Bean, B., Colaizzi, P.D., Howell, T. 2015. Water use and grain yield in drought-tolerant corn in the Texas High Plains. Agronomy Journal. 107(5):1922-1930.
Schwartz, R.C., Baumhardt, R.L., Scanlon, B.R., Bell, J.M., Davis, R.G., Ibragimov, N., Jones, O.R., Reedy, R.C. 2015. Long-term changes in soil organic carbon and nitrogen under semiarid tillage and cropping practices. Soil Science Society of America Journal. 79:1771-1781.
Schlegel, A.J., Yared, A., Bond, D.H., Wetter, S.M., Stone, L.R. 2015. Corn response to long-term applications of cattle manure, swine effluent, and inorganic nitrogen fertilizer. Agronomy Journal. 107:1701-1710.
Schlegel, A.J., Yared, A., Bond, D.H., Wetter, S.M., Stone, L.R. 2015. Soil physicochemical properties after 10 years of animal waste applications. Soil Science Society of America Journal. 79:711-719.
Oblath, E.A., Isbell, T.A., Berhow, M.A., Allen, B., Archer, D., Brown, J., Gesch, R.W., Hatfield, J.L., Jabro, J.D., Kiniry, J.R., Long, D.S. 2016. Development of near-infrared spectroscopy calibrations to measure quality characteristics in intact Brassicaceae germplasm. Industrial Crops and Products. 89:52-58.
Bordovsky, J.P., Mustian, J.T., Ritchie, G.L., Lewis, K.L. 2015. Cotton irrigation timing with variable seasonal irrigation capacities in the Texas south plains. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 31(6):883-897.
Mukherjee, T., Ivanova, M., Dagda, M., Kanayama, Y., Granot, D., Holaday, S. 2015. Constitutively overexpressing a tomato fructokinase gene (lefrk1) in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L. cv. coker 312) positively affects plant vegetative growth, boll number and seed cotton yield. Functional Plant Biology. 42(9):899-908.
Schlegel, A.J., Assefa, Y., O'Brien, D., Lamm, F.R., Haag, L.A., Stone, L.R. 2016. Comparison of corn, grain sorghum, soybean, and sunflower under limited irrigation. Agronomy Journal. 108(2):670-679.
Kisekka, I., Aguilar, J., Rogers, D., Holman, J., O'Brien, D., Klocke, N. 2015. Analysis of returns above variable costs for management of verticillium wilt in cotton. Transactions of the ASABE. 59(1):303-317.
Sun, L., Jarrett, P., Yang, X., Mishra, N., Chen, L., Kadioglu, A., Shen, G., Zhang, H., Pehlivan, N. 2016. Co-overexpressing a plasma membrane and a vacuolar membrane sodium/proton antiporter significantly improves salt tolerance in transgenic arabidopsis plants. Plant and Cell Physiology. 57(5):1069-1084.
Schlegel, A.J., Assefa, Y., Dumler, T.J., Haag, L.A., Stone, L.R., Halvorson, A.D., Thompson, C.R. 2016. Limited irrigation of corn-based no-till crop rotations in west central Great Plains. Agronomy Journal. 108(3):1132-1141.
Steward, D.R., Allen, A.J. 2015. Peak groundwater depletion in the High Plains Aquifer, projections from 1930 to 2110. Agricultural Water Management. 170(2016):36-48.
Bordovsky, J.P., Keeling, J.W., Wheeler, T.A., Smith, J.G., Woodward, J.E. 2016. Analysis of returns above variable costs for management of Verticillium wilt in cotton. Journal of Cotton Science. 20(1):56-66.
Lamm, F.R. 2015. Cotton, tomato, corn, and onion production with subsurface drip irrigation – a review. Transactions of the ASABE. 59(1)263-278.
Hao, B., Xue, Q., Marek, T.H., Jessup, K.E., Hou, X., Xu, W., Bynum, E.D., Bean, B.W. 2015. Soil water extraction, water use, and grain yield by drought tolerant maize on the Texas High Plains. Agricultural Water Management. 155(2015):11-21.
Hao, B., Xue, Q., Marek, T.H., Jessup, K.E., Hou, X., Xu, W., Bynum, E.D., Bean, B.W. 2016. Radiation use efficiency, biomass production, and grain yield in two maize hybrids differing in drought tolerance. Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science. 202(4):269-280.
Steward, D.R. 2015. Analysis of discontinuities across thin inhomogeneities, groundwater/surface water interactions in river networks, and circulation about slender bodies using slit elements in the Analytic Element Method. Water Resources Research. 51(11):8684-8703.
Arsenault, R.J., Genovese, K.J., He, H., Wu, H., Neish, A.S., Kogut, M.H. 2016. Wild-type and mutant AvrA- Salmonella induce broadly similar immune pathways in the chicken ceca with key differences in signaling intermediates and inflammation. Poultry Science. 95:354-363.
Oshaughnessy, S.A., Evett, S.R., Andrade, A., Workneh, F., Price, J.A., Rush, C.M. 2016. Site-specific variable rate irrigation a means to enhance water use efficiency. Transactions of the ASABE. 59(1):239-249. doi 10.13031/trans.59.11165.
Moorhead, J.E., Gowda, P., Marek, G.W., Porter, D.O., Marek, T.H., Howell, T.A. 2016. Spatial uniformity in sensitivity coefficient of reference ET in the Texas High Plains. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 32(2):263-269:doi:10.13031/aea.32.10940.
Colaizzi, P.D., Evett, S.R., Schwartz, R.C., Kustas, W.P., Cosh, M.H., Mckee, L.G. 2015. Soil heat flux calculation for sunlit and shaded surfaces under row crops: 2. Model Test. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 216(129):129-140. doi:10.1016/j.agrformet.2015.10.009.
Colaizzi, P.D., Evett, S.R., Agam, N., Schwartz, R.C., Kustas, W.P. 2015. Soil heat flux calculation for sunlit and shaded surfaces under row crops: 1 - Model Development and sensitivity analysis. Agriculture and Forest Meterology. 216: 115-128. doi: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2015.10.010
Moorhead, J.E., Gowda, P., Hobbins, M.T., Senay, G.B., Paul, G., Marek, T.H., Porter, D.O. 2015. Accuracy assessment of NOAA gridded daily reference evapotranspiration for the Texas High Plains. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. 51(5):1262-1271. doi: 10.1111/1752-1688.