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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Water Management and Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #374740

Research Project: Improving the Sustainability of Irrigated Farming Systems in Semi-Arid Regions

Location: Water Management and Systems Research

Title: Options for optimizing limited on-farm irrigation in the Northern Great Plains

item Comas, Louise
item Gleason, Sean
item Trout, Thomas
item ALTENHOFEN, JON - Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District
item Zhang, Huihui
item DeJonge, Kendall
item Mankin, Kyle

Submitted to: Colorado Water Magazine
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/1/2020
Publication Date: 6/1/2020
Citation: Comas, L.H., Gleason, S.M., Trout, T.J., Altenhofen, J., Zhang, H., DeJonge, K.C., Douglas-Mankin, K.R. 2020. Options for optimizing limited on-farm irrigation in the Northern Great Plains. Colorado Water Magazine. 37(2):10-11. Available:

Interpretive Summary: n/a

Technical Abstract: Field corn is the preferred agronomic crop for many irrigated farms in the Northern Great Plains, but many farms do not have enough irrigation water required to maximize yield on all acres in all years. Grain yield drops quickly with the reduction in water when crop water use is below 80% of the water needed to produce maximum yield. Current grain and water prices and production costs result in net farm income losses with limited irrigation unless income is supported in other ways, such as through leases or Alternative Transfer Methods (ATMs), or unless deficit irrigation is incentivized. There are a few options for farms, depending on when the shortfall in water supply is realized, and more options if incentives or water leases are included. Additionally, alternative crops that require less irrigation and at different times than the critical periods needed by corn, may also help optimize limited agricultural water, whether a farm is facing critical shortfalls or exploring leases.