Location: Soil and Water Management ResearchTitle: Performance of precision mobile drip irrigation in the Texas High Plains region
Submitted to: Agronomy
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/19/2017
Publication Date: 10/20/2017
Citation: O'Shaughnessy, S.A., Colaizzi, P.D. 2017. Performance of precision mobile drip irrigation in the Texas High Plains region. Agronomy. 7(4):68. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy7040068.
Interpretive Summary: Water availability for irrigation from the Ogallala Aquifer is declining; farmers in the Texas High Plains region are interested in mobile drip irrigation (MDI) as a means to improve crop yields per unit of water applied. This technology outfits driplines onto drop hoses on center pivot sprinklers, applying water directly to the soil as the drip lines are pulled across the field. While water losses should be reduced as compared with overhead sprinklers, there is limited information on the performance of the MDI system and its benefits relative to application methods common in the region- low elevation spray application (LESA) and low energy precision application (LEPA). ARS scientists at Bushland, Texas conducted a two-year study in 2015 and 2016 to compare corn production irrigated among the three application methods. The water applied to each application method was based on weekly neutron probe readings. Results indicated that in a year when seasonal rainfall is above average (2015), there is little difference in the performance of the application methods. However, during the drier year of 2016, crops irrigated with the MDI system required less water but still produced similar grain yield as compared with LESA and LEPA. These results are encouraging and could help sustain irrigated agriculture on farms that have limited well capacity. However, additional studies comparing the three application methods during drought growing seasons and over sorghum and cotton are needed to document performance and return on investment for a MDI system in the Texas High Plains region.
Technical Abstract: Mobile drip irrigation (MDI) technology adapts driplines to the drop hoses of moving sprinkler systems to apply water as the drip lines are pulled across the field. There is interest in this technology among farmers in the Texas High Plains region to help sustain irrigated agriculture. However, information on the performance of this system and its benefits relative to common sprinkler application technologies in the region are limited. A two-year study was conducted in 2015 and 2016 to compare grain yields, crop water use and water use efficiency (WUE) of corn (Zea Mays L.) irrigated with MDI, low elevation spray application (LESA) and low energy precision application (LEPA) methods. Irrigation amounts for each application method were based on weekly neutron probe readings. In both years, grain yield and yield components were similar among application treatment methods. Although WUE was similar for the MDI treatment plots compared with LEPA and LESA during the wet growing season (2015), it demonstrated improved WUE during the drier year of 2016. Additional studies using crops with less than full canopy cover at maturity (sorghum and cotton) are needed to document the performance of MDI in the Texas High Plains region.