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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Stoneville, Mississippi » Sustainable Water Management Research » Research » Research Project #442923

Research Project: Optimizing Irrigation Water Use in the Arkansas Delta

Location: Sustainable Water Management Research

Project Number: 6066-13000-006-022-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

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

To develop applied research focused on the application of precision technologies on irrigated agriculture in the Arkansas Delta to reduce pressure on the aquifer. Specific objectives are: 1. Implement and evaluate precision irrigation technologies for cropping systems in the Arkansas Delta. 2. Engage stakeholders to understand the factors that impede application of precision irrigation technologies. 3. Calibrate and evaluate a crop model to study the effects of irrigation water sources, techniques and scheduling on production, environment and profitability. 4. Develop recommendations for Arkansas Delta farmers to enhance irrigation and nutrient use efficiencies of cropping systems.

Several fields in the Arkansas Delta with representative cropping systems in the area particularly those managed by limited resource farmers will be used for this project. Further, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) research and demonstration farms will also be utilized for field experiments. Soil moisture probes and rain gauges with dataloggers and/or telemetry systems will be installed at key locations at each research site to continuously monitor irrigation applications and soil water dynamics during two growing seasons. Furthermore, groundwater levels from the irrigation wells at the research sites will be monitored using water level drawdown. In addition to the sensor and groundwater levels data, agronomic data will also be collected, and these data will include tillage practices, planting dates, planting populations, fertilizer applications, the timing of growth stages, canopy cover, irrigation applications, and crop yields. Multiple gravimetric soil samples will also be collected during the two growing seasons to estimate reference soil water content for evaluating the performance of the soil moisture probes. The project will also involve engaging the farmers and other stakeholders to gather qualitative data of their decision-making and their choices about irrigation management and water conservation in the Arkansas Delta. The data collected from this project will be analyzed regularly and used to inform irrigation decisions as well as developing practical recommendations for improving irrigation and nutrient efficiencies in the Arkansas Delta. The data will also be used to calibrate and validate a suitable crop model which will be applied to simulate alternative irrigation strategies for optimizing water use while minimizing yield loss and reducing pumping costs.