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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Jonesboro, Arkansas » Delta Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #369430

Research Project: Preserving Water Availability and Quality for Agriculture in the Lower Mississippi River Basin

Location: Delta Water Management Research

Title: Surface irrigation in the Lower Mississippi River Basin: trends and innovation

item Reba, Michele
item Massey, Joseph

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/16/2020
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The Lower Mississippi River Basin is an agricultural region of national and international significance. It relies heavily on the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer to provide over 80% of the irrigation water applied to over four million hectares of corn, cotton, peanut, rice and soybean. Pumping for irrigation and the region’s geology have led to significant aquifer declines in portions of Arkansas and Mississippi. Responses to the declines have been multi-faceted with conservation practices at the forefront. Regional trends in irrigated area and groundwater/surface water balance will be described. Innovations in surface irrigation practices will be highlighted and include: land leveling, poly-tubing, computerized hole-selection, innovative rice irrigation practices, pump automation, cover crops, and irrigation scheduling using soil moisture sensors. Several regional efforts to improve surface irrigation efficiencies and surface water supplies will also be described. Strategies to further reduce field CH4 emissions include furrow irrigation, using algae as a mulch cover, reducing standing litter, and drill seeding. Strategies to scale these research findings and pilot implementations include increased use of farm sustainability tools, public and private-sector incentive programs, and consumer demand for climate-smart rice. In all strategies, CO2 and N2O emissions should be monitored to take advantage of the high carbon sequestration potential of rice and low potential N2O emissions. A challenge is how to sequester CO2 uptake as soil organic matter via litter incorporation without increasing CH4 emissions. Careful water and fertilizer management can keep N2O emissions low. All three gases should be managed together, while sustaining or improving harvest yield, to create a sustainable rice production strategy.