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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Research Project #441575

Research Project: Dryland and Irrigated Crop Management Under Limited Water Availability and Drought

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Project Number: 3090-13000-016-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jan 26, 2022
End Date: Jan 25, 2027

1. Develop tools for evapotranspiration (ET) yield and crop water productivity determinations, and management in irrigated, dryland and mixed precipitation dependent/irrigated cropping systems. Sub-objective 1A: Improved determinations of ET. Sub-objective 1B: Development and Application of Crop Coefficients. Sub-objective 1C: Managing crop water productivity using MDI. Sub-objective 1D: Develop management practices to improve marginally irrigated and dryland cropping systems. Sub-objective 1.E: Develop dryland cropping practices that are resilient and improve performance. 2. Develop sensors, technologies, and models that facilitate site-specific irrigation management. Sub-objective 2A: Develop new plant sensors to facilitate site-specific irrigation. Sub-objective 2B. Develop and evaluate energy and SW balance models. 3. Develop water management decision support tools and databases to facilitate better water allocation and irrigation scheduling decisions under limited irrigation. Sub-objective 3A: Provide long-term high-quality weather, ET, management, and crop development data. Sub-objective 3B: Conduct Sensitivity Analyses on ET Related Models and Decision Support Systems. Sub-objective 3C: Develop and Evaluate Crop and Hydrologic Models for Water Management Decision Support Systems.

To meet the nutritional, fiber and energy needs of a growing world population, global agricultural productivity needs to increase. While American agriculture has been a key contributor to feeding the world, further increases in agricultural production from much of the Great Plains region may not be able to keep up with anticipated increases in demand because of an inability to meet the water needs of future crops. Mean annual precipitation provides 40% to 80% of crop water demand. The balance of crop water demand is usually supplied by irrigation from the Ogallala Aquifer (OA); unfortunately, groundwater depletion has occurred in much of the aquifer. Over 80% of the newly permitted wells on the Texas High Plains have pumping rates that are insufficient to irrigate a 50 ha-pivot of corn. Because of the severity of aquifer depletion, water management strategies such as shifting to less water-intensive crops, allocating water among sectors within a pivot, conversion to dryland, etc. are being evaluated for their economic feasibility and effectiveness in prolonging the life of irrigated agriculture on the Southern High Plains. This research project seeks knowledge and technologies to decrease the impact of aquifer depletion on crop production by better matching irrigation water supply to targeted yields that tend to be less than maximum. An additional factor challenging crop production on the Southern High Plains is that the severity of multi-year droughts has increased in the past 120 years, which can threaten both irrigated and dryland crop production. Thus, this project also seeks management practices that increase the resilience and sustainability of dryland crop production.