Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/7/2015
Publication Date: 11/11/2015
Citation: Evett, S.R. 2015. ARS irrigation research priorities and projects-An update. [abstract]. November 11,2015, Long Beach, California.
Technical Abstract: The USDA Agricultural Research Service focuses on six areas of research that are crucial to safe and effective use of all water resources for agricultural production: 1) Irrigation Scheduling Technologies for Water Productivity; 2) Water Productivity (WP) at Multiple Scales; 3) Irrigation Application Method Effects on WP; 4) Dryland/Rainfed Water Management; 5) Drainage Water Management and Control; and 6) Use of Degraded Waters. In the fiscal years 2011 through 2014, ARS scientists and engineers made substantial progress in addressing these research problems and creating new knowledge, products and outcomes to improve American agricultural production, efficiency of resource use, safety and profitability. New irrigation scheduling technologies included wireless sensor networks supporting irrigation decisions and invention of sensors such as new, more accurate soil water sensors and wireless infrared sensors for detecting soil water deficits and plant water stress, respectively. Two key technologies were patented, and both are either commercialized or on their way to commercialization. Innovated irrigation application systems included the use of center pivot irrigation for rice production, resulting in better control of spatially variable rice water needs and substantial increases in rice water use efficiency (bushels of rice per inch of irrigation water used). A new remote-sensing-based system combining satellite imagery with the California agricultural weather station system now provides crop water use estimates for 10 million acres in California. New spatial forecasting and crop simulation tools are enabling enhanced yield of biofuel crops and improved deficit irrigation decisions that increase crop water use efficiency. Irrigation application method changes such as conversion to subsurface drip irrigation were shown to substantially reduce losses of water to evaporation, making more water available to crops. Dryland cropping research improved crop selection strategies for multi-year crop rotations that make better use of available precipitation. Drainage systems research addressed the paradox of too much water in some seasons of the year and short-term summertime droughts. Drainage research showed that active management systems could conserve both water and nutrients for use during drier periods. This work resulted in the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) program that reduces nutrient loads in streams, aquifers and lakes. Finally, research on the use of alternative and degraded water resources showed that leaching fractions could be substantially reduced without affecting yield and use of saline water was not as harmful as previously thought. Research also showed that several species, including mustard, opuntia (cactus) and poplar can be grown successfully using drainage waters hight in boron and selenium. In summary, through the development of new management tools, sensors and systems ARS research has substantially increased the production of food, fiber and fuel while not increasing use of water resources.