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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Jonesboro, Arkansas » Delta Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #377373

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

Location: Delta Water Management Research

Title: Impacts of Alternate Wetting and Drying and Delayed Flood Rice Irrigation on Growing Season Evapotranspiration

item REAVIS, COLBY - University Of Arkansas
item SUVOCAREV, KOSANA - University Of California, Davis
item Reba, Michele
item RUNKLE, BENJAMIN - University Of Arkansas

Submitted to: Journal of Hydrology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/5/2021
Publication Date: 5/1/2021
Citation: Reavis, C.W., Suvocarev, K., Reba, M.L., Runkle, B.R. 2021. Impacts of Alternate Wetting and Drying and Delayed Flood Rice Irrigation on Growing Season Evapotranspiration. Journal of Hydrology. 596.

Interpretive Summary: Rice production uses a lot of water and efforts are being made to reduce that water use, including the alternate wetting and drying (AWD) rice irrigation practice. We measured water use in two commerical rice fields over three growing seasons that were managed using AWD and a traditional irrigation method in order to improve our understanding of these practices. Our findings were: (1) we observed no significant differences in water use between fields using AWD and conventional flooding, and (2) we improved a model for estimating plant water use using local meteorological and rice canopy characteristics. Our results can be used to support decisions made by producers on the use of AWD when growing rice, and our model can improve field water budgeting for different irrigation practices.

Technical Abstract: As rice production is water intensive, establishing an accurate field–scale water budget is paramount for sustainable use of local water resources. The goal of this study was to quantify and characterize half-hourly and seasonal evapotranspiration (ET) in two commercial, zero–grade rice fields in the U.S. Mid–South over three growing seasons. During each growing season, irrigation regimes for the studied fields differed between alternate wetting and drying (AWD) and delayed flooding (DF). The 2015 growing season enabled a direct comparison of the effects of AWD and DF on ET, while during the 2016 and 2017 seasons both fields were simultaneously under AWD and DF, respectively. The DF method is the region’s most common irrigation practice, and it prescribes a continuous flood to be maintained for the majority of the growing season after the plants have reached the 5-leaf growth stage (40-50 days after planting). In contrast, after holding the initial flooding for 2-3 weeks, AWD allows for field drying to promote the capture of seasonal rains to reduce irrigation water withdrawal and associated water pumping costs. In this study, ET was estimated across three growing seasons with gap–filled eddy covariance observations and two variations of the Penman–Monteith equation. These methods determined growing season ET values between 560 mm and 636 mm. This study found that there were no significant differences in cumulative ET or yield when comparing AWD to DF practices. Furthermore, AWD elicited no change in ET during periods of drying when compared to DF. By this metric, AWD did not induce drought stress within the plants. We conclude that the main benefit of AWD practice is to take advantage of seasonal rainfall to offset pumping costs and pressure on irrigation water requirements while maintaining yields comparable to conventional irrigation practices.