Submitted to: Soil and Water Conservation Society Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/29/2006
Publication Date: 7/23/2006
Citation: Trout, T.J., Buchleiter, G.W., Bausch, W.C. 2006. Research needs to sustain agriculture on the high plains with limited irrigation water supplies. Soil and Water Conservation Society Proceedings. Keystone Colorado 7/23/2006
Technical Abstract: Irrigated agriculture in the West is facing declining water supplies. Many aquifers are being pumped at non-sustainable rates. Increasing realization of the inter-connectivity of surface and groundwater supplies are resulting in legal restrictions on groundwater use. Downstream (or upstream) users are demanding their full allotments. The public is demanding environmental restorations that require water be left in rivers and lakes. Growing populations are outbidding agriculture for marketable water supplies. Farmers, the communities they live in, and the businesses they support, are searching for ways to survive as their most limiting resource declines. Survival of irrigated agriculture will require abandoning the previous paradigm of maximizing production through full irrigation. The challenge will be to maximize net economic output per unit of water consumed. This will require tillage systems, crop rotations, weed control strategies, and other cultural practices that conserve soil moisture; crop rotations that concentrate high value irrigated crops on a portion of the land and devote the remaining land to rainfed crops or grazing; short season crops that use less water; reduced production costs; adoption of irrigation methods and management that maximizes water use efficiency; and the seasonal ability to predict and respond to water availability or shortage. These practices must be implemented without undue negative impacts on soil productivity, or groundwater or surface water quality from soil erosion or chemical leaching. Research results in these areas will provide producers with tools and technologies that will allow them to continue economic farming operations.