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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Research Project #442781

Research Project: Dryland and Irrigated Crop Management Under Limited Water Availability and Drought - OAP with KSU

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Project Number: 3090-13000-016-063-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2022
End Date: Dec 31, 2025

This agreement supports the Ogallala Aquifer Program (OAP), an ARS led research-education consortium addressing problems arising from declining water availability from the Ogallala Aquifer on the Southern High Plains. The current objectives of the related in-house project and this agreement are to: 1) Develop tools for evapotranspiration (ET) yield and crop water productivity determinations, and management in irrigated, dryland and mixed precipitation dependent/irrigated cropping systems. 2) Develop sensors, technologies, and models that facilitate site-specific irrigation management. 3) Develop water management decision support tools and databases to facilitate better water allocation and irrigation scheduling decisions under limited irrigation.

To meet the nutritional, fiber and energy needs of a growing world population, global agricultural productivity needs to increase. Further increases in agricultural production from much of the Great Plains region may not 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 remainder is mainly supplied by irrigation from the Ogallala Aquifer; unfortunately, groundwater depletion has occurred. Because of the severity of aquifer depletion and ongoing drought conditions, 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. Also, this project seeks management practices that increase the resilience and sustainability of dryland crop production. The OAP is associated with project 3090-13000-016-000D. The OAP is a congressionally directed program that is led by the ARS locations in Bushland and Lubbock, Texas. The objectives of the OAP are: 1) develop knowledge and technologies to reduce the dependence of agriculture on groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer on the SHP; and 2) provide knowledge and tools for water policy makers so they can make better decisions about ground water conservation practices based on science. Progress towards the objectives is by a multi-disciplinary approach of research being conducted on the lab bench, small field plots, and large field plots and data from remotely sensed platforms operating at scales from plots to fields to regions. Lab bench experiments develop test various sensors related to crop water status, plant health and soil water content. Once tested under control conditions, sensors are deployed to the field where they are tested first in small plots and then in larger plots. Field conditions vary from dryland cropping systems to marginally irrigated plots to fully irrigated fields and measured parameters are compared to traditional methods that have been used previously. Data from sensors and weather stations are then compiled and integrated into irrigation schedules that are tested for their performance. Similarly, management protocols for dryland farming are tested initially at limited time and spatial scales and those that support either higher yields or reduced risk are investigated at larger spatial and temporal scales. Four universities contribute to the OAP: Kansas State University, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University and West Texas A&M University. All four universities use similar methods as the in-house project. However, the four universities have access to field plots that differ from Bushland in soil type and climate. In addition, each university has expertise and resources in agricultural economics and technology transfer that are not available at the Bushland ARS location. This agreement describes Kansas State University’s contribution to the OAP.