Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #323805

Title: Strategies to improve water productivity in a water-stressed future

item Evett, Steven - Steve

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/23/2015
Publication Date: 12/1/2015
Citation: Evett, S.R. 2015. Strategies to improve water productivity in a water-stressed future. In: Proceedings of the Western Alfalfa and Forage Symposium, Reno, NV, December 3-4, 2015.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: In the fiscal years 2011 through 2014, ARS scientists and engineers made substantial progress in addressing research problems related to improving water productivity and creating new knowledge, products and outcomes to improve American agricultural production, efficiency of resource use, safety and profitability. New irrigation scheduling technologies created 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. Two key technologies were patented, one a soil water sensing system and the other a site-specific irrigation management supervisory control and data acquisition system; and both are either commercialized or on their way to commercialization for use by producers. 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.Finally, research on the use of alternative and degraded water resources showed that leaching fractions could be substantially reduced without affecting yield and showed that use of saline water was more productive than previously thought. In summary, through the development of new management tools, sensors and systems, ARS research has substantially increased agricultural production while not increasing use of water resources. Additionally ARS research has shown that drainage water control can effectively improve availability of water to crops while reducing nutrient pollution of waterways.