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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Parlier, California » San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center » Water Management Research » Research » Research Project #432372

Research Project: Develop Water Management Strategies to Sustain Water Productivity and Protect Water Quality in Irrigated Agriculture

Location: Water Management Research

Project Number: 2034-13000-012-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jan 29, 2017
End Date: Jan 28, 2022

The San Joaquin Valley of California is one of the most productive regions in the world with annual agricultural output exceeding $30 billion. Irrigated agriculture faces severe competition for water from municipal, industrial, and environmental interests; therefore, management strategies must be developed to improve water use efficiency, particularly for perennial crops. Development of management alternatives will require characterization of crop water requirements and determination of levels of irrigation and water quality to sustain production. The overall goal of this multidisciplinary project is to develop new management strategies to increase water use efficiency of both good and poor quality waters and reduce impact on soil and water quality from agrochemicals. Objective 1: Develop crop water requirements and water management strategies using good quality water, and reuse strategies using poor quality waters, to maintain or improve water productivity. • Subobjective 1A: Determine effects of deficit irrigation on vegetable crops in biochar-amended soil and evaluate capacity of biochar to stabilize microbial community response to deficit irrigation. • Subobjective 1B: Determine effects of irrigation methods and deficit irrigation on growth and yield of nectarine budded to existing peach rootstock. • Subobjective 1C: Determine effects of deficit irrigation on table grape fruit yield and quality. • Subobjective 1D: Determine water requirements for a mature pomegranate orchard. • Subobjective 1E: Develop sustainable agricultural water reuse systems to protect soil/environmental health of drainage impacted soils when using poor quality water. Objective 2: Reduce the detrimental impacts of irrigated agriculture on water quality by developing practices to increase agrochemical use efficiency.

Objective 1, Subobjective 1A: The hypothesis for this research is that deficit irrigation in biochar-amended soil can increase crop water use efficiency and mediate changes in soil microbes. Plot experiments with different biochar and irrigation are planned for bulb onion. Crop yield, quality, and soil microbes will be determined and analyzed to assess the interactive effect of deficit irrigation and biochar. If the initial plan with bulb onion is not feasible, other crops will be used. Subobjective 1B: The hypothesis for this research is that grafted nectarine can grow well under different methods of irrigation and deficit irrigation can reduce total water use. This study will be conducted at an existing mature peach orchard that is having nectarine scions grafted to the existing trunks. Furrow, drip, and micro-sprinkler systems will be used under deficit irrigation to determine nectarine yield and quality. If the initial plan for the pre-selected deficit irrigation treatments are too high or too low, adjustments will be made. Subobjective 1C: The hypothesis for this research is that deficit irrigation will yield quantity and quality of grape products similar to a fully irrigated crop. Field experiments will be carried out at growers’ fields where two table grape varieties will be evaluated for performance under deficit irrigation. If the initial plan at the existing sites need to be changed, we will work with the California Table Grape Commission to find alternative cooperators. Subobjective 1D: The research goal for this study is that pomegranate water requirement can be determined using weighing lysimeters. This study will be conducted at an existing mature pomegranate orchard. Differential irrigation will be applied for comparison with the deficit treatments. It is not uncommon that there will be down times for the sophisticated mechanical and electronic components associated with the lysimeters. If that happens, we will use soil water content or nearby weather station data for irrigation scheduling. Subobjective 1E: The research goal for this investigation is that sustainable agronomic systems can be developed for managing soil selenium contributed by use or reuse of poor quality water. We will use drainage waters or poor quality soil and groundwater to grow mustard and canola for biofuel and seed meal production on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. We will test forage, guayule, and cactus production using micro-plots containing high concentrations of soluble salts, selenium, and boron. If any of the planned research sites is lost, additional research plots can be initiated in areas containing high levels of salt and selenium. Objective 2: The research goal for this study is to develop feasible and sound management practices to use biochar and manure for irrigated crops to significantly increase nitrogen use efficiency and reduce environmental loss. Both laboratory and field experiments will be carried out for developing management strategies to increase agrochemical use efficiency. If selected biochar and manure do not meet the experimental needs, additional materials will be collected and added to the experiment.