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Title: Circles of live buffer strips in a center pivot to improve multiple ecosystem services and sustainability of irrigated agriculture in the southern great plains

item ANGADI, SANGAMESH - New Mexico State University
item Gowda, Prasanna
item CUTFORTH, HERB - Agriculture And Agri-Food Canada
item IDOWU, JOHN - New Mexico State University

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/24/2016
Publication Date: 3/5/2016
Citation: Angadi, S.V., Gowda, P., Cutforth, H.W., Idowu, J. 2016. Circles of live buffer strips in a center pivot to improve multiple ecosystem services and sustainability of irrigated agriculture in the southern great plains. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 71(2):44A-49A.

Interpretive Summary: This concept paper proposes and discusses circular grass buffer strips as a future farming strategy for long term sustainability of irrigated agriculture. Benefits of adopting this strategy covers all four aspects: productivity, environmental quality, profitability and quality of life. This system expected to improve water use efficiency of agricultural fields irrigated with center-pivot systems by capturing most of the rainfall and snowfall, reducing evaporation and runoff losses, and utilizing water during the off season. Consequently, it improves the resiliency of the system under a more variable climate. Adding a mixture of perennial grasses will increase food and shelter for both above- and below-ground life. Overall, circular buffer strips are expected to offer more and sustainable ecosystem services than that with current practices.

Technical Abstract: Declining Ogallala Aquifer has threatened sustainability of highly productive irrigated agriculture in the region. The region, known for the dust bowl of thirties, is scared of its return. Lower well outputs and increasing pumping costs have compelled farmers to adapt alternative conservation strategies. Partial pivots, where high water using conventional crops are grown only on part of the pivot, are becoming more common. Low pressure center pivot irrigation systems are predominantly used in the region. Unlike surface irrigation systems, small quantity of irrigation water is applied frequently to keep topsoil profile wet in a center pivot system. The region is known for strong winds and abundant sunlight. As a result, when the crop canopy is not fully covered, each circle acts as an “Island of Evaporation”. Therefore, innovative systems are needed to sustain irrigated agriculture in the region. Our main concept is to utilize the area unused for irrigation in a partial pivot to layout multiple circular barrier strips of perennial grasses using aerodynamic principles. The barriers are expected to offer ecosystem services like moderation of wind speed, reduce soil evaporation, improve water productivity, protect seedlings from sand blasting, create a better microclimate for seedling growth, conserve high intensity rains, reduce wind erosion, improve environmental quality by reducing dust problem, improve carbon sequestration, provides refuge for diverse wild life, and produce feedstock for renewable energy or forage for animals. Circular design will protect from wind from any direction. Wind model from NRCS will be used to assess wind moderation by buffer strips and reduction in evapotranspiration will be estimated. Modelling work will help in deciding ideal barrier grass and desired traits in it. Most studies on wind barrier focus conserving soil resources, but our focus is to understand water dynamics and improve water efficiency of the system.