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ARS Home » Plains Area » El Reno, Oklahoma » Grazinglands Research Laboratory » Forage and Livestock Production Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #345418

Research Project: Integrated Forage Systems for Food and Energy Production in the Southern Great Plains

Location: Forage and Livestock Production Research

Title: Evaluating optimum limited irrigation management strategies for corn production in the ogallala aquifer region

Author
item Araya, Berhe - Kansas State University
item Kisekka, Isaya - Kansas State University
item Vara Prasad, P.v.v - Kansas State University
item Gowda, Prasanna

Submitted to: Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/17/2017
Publication Date: 7/25/2017
Citation: Araya, B.A., Kisekka, I., Vara Prasad, P., Gowda, P. 2017. Evaluating optimum limited irrigation management strategies for corn production in the ogallala aquifer region. Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)IR.1943-4774.0001228.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)IR.1943-4774.0001228

Interpretive Summary: Summer growing season precipitation in western Kansas is variable and erratic. The major summer crops such as corn and sorghum need supplemental irrigation to meet full crop water demand. However, groundwater levels in the underlying Ogallala aquifer declined drastically due to water withdrawals exceeding recharge rates. Deficit/limited irrigation has been proven to optimize yield, biomass, and water productivity if implemented appropriately. In this study, efforts were made to (1) determine optimum irrigation water allocation for corn with different planting dates and (2) evaluate the impact of spreading versus concentrating water based on corn yield and crop water productivity in western Kansas. At 70% of field capacity, it is concluded that corn requires on average 450 mm net irrigation to attain optimal yields (with highest water productivity) in a dry climate regardless of the planting date. Considering a limited well capacity of 68.1 m3/h, planting 50% of 46.8 ha produced the highest yield with the highest crop water productivity on both sandy clay loam and silt loam soils. For comprehensive decision making, further analysis of the different land-water allocation combinations with economic analysis of net income is recommended.

Technical Abstract: Water is the major factor limiting crop production in the Ogallala Aquifer Region of the U.S. Central High Plains. Seasonal precipitation is highly variable, low in amount, and not enough to meet full corn water needs. The Ogallala Aquifer is the major source of irrigation water for commercial agriculture in the region. However, groundwater levels of the aquifer have declined drastically due to water withdrawals for irrigation exceeding mean annual recharge. The purpose of this study was to (1) determine optimum irrigation water allocation and planting dates under various growing season precipitation scenarios for corn using AquaCrop and (2) evaluate the impact of spreading versus concentrating water based on corn yield and crop water productivity in western Kansas. Corn needed on average 450, 300, and 150 mm of irrigation for dry, normal, and wet growing seasons, respectively, assuming initial soil water at planting as 70% of field capacity. There were differences in corn yield among evaluated planting dates. Late planting produced the lowest yield. Yield and biomass were optimum at seasonal evapotranspiration (ET) of 675–703 mm for early, 664–702 mm for normal, and 623–675 mm for late planting, respectively, in sandy clay loam soils. Similarly, ET values for silt loam soils were 679–709 mm, 662–714 mm, and 625–687 mm, respectively. The highest and lowest ET in the range corresponded to wet and dry growing season precipitation scenarios, respectively. Assuming a limited well capacity of 68.1 m3/h, planting 50% of 46.8 ha produced the highest yield and crop water productivity on both sandy clay loam and silt loam soils compared to planting 100% of the area. However, for comprehensive assessments of limited irrigation strategies, further analysis of the different land–water allocation combinations with economic analysis of net income is recommended. The results of this analysis could be useful for other semiarid regions where water for irrigation is limited.