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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Stoneville, Mississippi » Sustainable Water Management Research » Research » Research Project #441615

Research Project: Development of Best Management Practices, Tools, and Technologies to Optimize Water Use Efficiency and Improve Water Distribution in the Lower Mississippi River Basin

Location: Sustainable Water Management Research

Project Number: 6066-13000-006-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Feb 7, 2022
End Date: Feb 6, 2027

1. Develop robust datasets, models, and data visualization tools to determine the impact of alternate water supplies on aquifer recharge and groundwater levels in the LMRB. 1.A. Implement sensing device to monitor ground water and surface water level in the Mississippi Delta. 1.B. Monitor status of surface water storage using remote sensing technology. 1.C. Quantify and characterize demand for irrigation water and identify the value of water in competing and complementary agricultural water uses. 1.D. Modeling the impact of alternate water supplies on aquifer dynamics. 2. Develop optimized irrigation scheduling tools for cropping systems in the LMRB that account for crop water requirements, impacts of water stress, and economic and environmental sustainability while minimizing water usage. 2.A. Develop and evaluate improved sensor-based irrigation scheduling methods. 2.B. Implement and evaluate, automation and other advanced technologies and methods for optimal irrigation management. 3. Develop new and novel sensor systems and that include optimized telemetry and efficiently integrate with decision support models and tools for prescription irrigation and water resource management. 3.A. Integrating ground-based sensor and remote sensing systems and cloud-based data acquisition, develop and evaluate decision support systems for site-specific irrigation and nutrient management. 3.B. Develop new sensing and monitoring systems to provide measurements of soil- and surface-water status and plant response and stress for continuous, site-specific water and crop management. 4. Evaluate and improve current best management practices or develop new practices based on new and novel approaches that stochastically account for interaction effects of irrigation, planting, fertility and pest management, and implementation of conservation practices including cover crops, tillage methods, edge-of-field buffers, surface water storage/use, and soil health. 4.A. Evaluate the effects of irrigation water sources, application techniques, and scheduling methods on crop production, environmental outcomes, and farm profitability. 4.B. Determine the water-related effects of crop management strategies such as crop/variety selection, and cover crops on crop production, environmental outcomes, and farm profitability. (See postplan for subobjective 4.C.) 5. Engage LMRB stakeholders through our MSU research and Extension partners to characterize producer behavior and attitudes with respect to irrigation and water conservation management and introducing them to cutting edge digital tools, technologies, and best management practices. (See postplan for subobjectives 5.A and 5.B.) 6. Develop and validate algorithms/models using remote sensing and eddy covariance methods to improve evapotranspiration (ET) estimates and water productivity at field and regional scales to improve the predictability and forecasting capabilities of the LMRB cropping systems models to more robustly address the impacts of climate change. (See postplan for subobjectives 6.A. and 6.B.)

New sensing systems for the automated monitoring of surface water using ultrasonic and LiDAR distance sensors will be developed. Field experiments will be conducted to monitor surface water storage bodies across the Mississippi Delta region using novel sensors as well as UAV and/or satellite imagery. Economic studies will be carried out to identify the factors which influence groundwater pumping decisions in addition to the cost of pumping water. Groundwater and economic studies will combine to examine the impact of alternate water supplies, such as tailwater recovery systems, on aquifer dynamics and agricultural productivity. Variable rate irrigation (VRI) experiments will be conducted to examine options for reducing withdrawals from the aquifer without negatively impacting agricultural productivity. VRI management will be conducted by integrating sensor data with crop yield and water efficiency data. Crops will be grown in fields equipped with eddy covariance (EC) system for measuring water vapor and CO2 fluxes, and instrumentation for monitoring ET using a residual energy balance (REB) approach. Relevant data will be collected and analyzed to predict impacts of climate change and variability on production and water requirements in cropping systems. Sensors to monitor canopy temperature and reflectance will be deployed and used to develop vegetation indices. Plant physiological and morphological responses will be monitored. Water stress indices based on canopy temperature, NDVI, PRI, ET, and soil water will be developed and related to the crop physiological responses. Sensor development will be integrated into the agricultural production trials to develop improve irrigation prescriptions and decision support models. Additional field exeperiments will be conducted to examine the impact of irrigation application technique, row spacing and production techniques and methods. Additional studies will quantify changes in water use and water quality based on cover crops and fertilizer management practices. Site-specific and one-on-one learning opportunities will be employed to familiarize producers who are interested in adopting the newly developed techniques. Diverse technology transfer materials and extension programming materials will be developed and delivered to target audiences through a wide array of outlets to maxmizie technology awareness and adoption. A combination of interviews, focus groups, and survey instruments will be developed to understand current attitudes towards conservation and best management practices. The target population for this study is all permit holders, landowners, and operators who withdraw water for agricultural irrigation in the Bootheel of Missouri and the Delta regions of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. This approach allows for intuitive and explicit modeling of non-economic factors that influence economic decisions and behaviors. The findings will inform and guide our research and promotions efforts in relation to developing best management practices for the region.