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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Jonesboro, Arkansas » Delta Water Management Research » Research » Research Project #441813

Research Project: Optimizing the Management of Irrigated Cropping Systems in the Lower Mississippi River Basin

Location: Delta Water Management Research

Project Number: 6024-13000-004-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Apr 8, 2022
End Date: Apr 7, 2027

1. Develop improved management practices for irrigated cropping systems (e.g. rice, soybean, cotton) in humid subtropical environments. 1a. Develop and evaluate irrigation management systems and determine their influence on crop yield and quality, and water quality. 1b. Determine impacts of conservation management practices on crop yield, quality and climate resiliency, greenhouse gas emissions, and air and water quality. 2. Develop and expand robust datasets focused on water use efficiency, air and water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and other sustainable cropping system metrics in humid subtropical environments. 2a. Contribute to long-term water quality assessments of cotton- and rice-based cropping systems. 2b. Integrate greenhouse gas emission, yield metrics, and phenotypic architecture datasets to improve models, scaling factors, and tools for current and future climate scenarios. 3. Develop and deploy agronomically sound irrigation and drainage management tools, practices, and technologies that improve water resource management and return on investment in a changing climate. 3a. Devise techniques and/or tools to identify, inventory, and create conservation milestones for agricultural water resource management in the Lower Mississippi River Basin (LMRB). 3b. Evaluate the utility of multiple strategies for managed aquifer recharge in the Lower Mississippi River Basin (LMRB).

To optimize the management of irrigated cropping systems in the Lower Mississippi River Basin, research must aim to sustain or improve agricultural production and natural resources through optimized management practices that sustain yield and grain quality while reducing inputs and environmental risks. Research will focus on field-scale to farm-scale quantification of water quantity, water quality, and greenhouse gas emissions in response to crop management. Comparisons of production practices in rice-based and cotton-based systems include irrigation automation, nutrient management, crop establishment, tillage, cover crops, and residue management will be investigated. Improved understanding of aquifer decline and solutions to arrest decline through watershed planning that focuses on return on investment and managed recharge will be studied. Data collected on the impact of these practices will be curated into robust datasets that will be used to devise tools and technologies and improve existing models. This research is expected to augment the existing body of knowledge of agricultural water resources, inform resource managers and provide farm managers with new tools, practices and technologies that will reduce groundwater use and produce a profitable crop.