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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #382765

Research Project: Precipitation and Irrigation Management to Optimize Profits from Crop Production

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: A 2020 vision of subsurface drip irrigation in the USA

item LAMM, FREDDIE - Kansas State University
item Colaizzi, Paul
item Sorensen, Ronald - Ron
item BORDOVSKY, JAMES - Retired Non ARS Employee
item DOUGHERTY, MARK - Auburn University
item BALKCOM, KRIS - Alabama Cooperative Extension Service
item ZACCARIA, DANIELLE - University Of California, Davis
item BALI, KHALED - University Of California
item RUDNICK, DARAN - University Of Nebraska
item PETERS, TROY - Washington State University

Submitted to: Transactions of the ASABE
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/4/2021
Publication Date: 8/23/2021
Citation: Lamm, F., Colaizzi, P.D., Sorensen, R.B., Bordovsky, J.P., Dougherty, M., Balkcom, K., Zaccaria, D., Bali, K.M., Rudnick, D., Peters, T. 2021. A 2020 vision of subsurface drip irrigation in the USA. Transactions of the ASABE. 64(4):1319-1343.

Interpretive Summary: A growing global population creates the need for increased food and fiber production. Irrigation is one means of increasing crop yields; however, supplies of fresh water are dwindling and the demand for non-agricultural uses is increasing. Subsurface drip irrigation is an advanced irrigation technology that has been shown to conserve water and still maintain or increase crop yields compared with more traditional irrigation methods. However, best management practices need further development. Therefore, scientists and engineers at USDA-ARS, Kansas State University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Auburn University, University of California, University of Nebraska, and Washington State University reviewed and summarized research in subsurface drip irrigation from 2010 to 2020 in the USA. The review identified four major barriers to adopting subsurface drip irrigation, including greater capital cost compared with sprinkler systems, management and maintenance protocols that are new and unfamiliar to US farmers, water application to the soil not being visible (indicating whether or not crops are receiving water), and damage to buried drip laterals by burrowing animals. The review made recommendations for future research in addressing these barriers to adoption. The research findings will help more US farmers adopt subsurface drip irrigation and result in more efficient use of water to produce crops.

Technical Abstract: Subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) offers several advantages over alternative irrigation systems when it is designed and installed correctly and when best management practices are adopted. These advantages include the ability to apply water and nutrients directly and efficiently within the crop rootzone. Disadvantages in commercial agriculture relative to alternative systems include greater capital cost per unit land area (except for small land parcels), unfamiliar management and maintenance protocols, water application not being visible, and the susceptibility to system damage of the subsurface driplines. Despite these disadvantages, subsurface drip irrigation continues to be adopted in commercial agriculture in the USA and research efforts to evaluate and develop the topic continue as well. This paper summarizes recent progress of research (2010 to 2020) and the status of commercial adoption of subsurface drip irrigation along with a discussion of current challenges and opportunities.