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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Jonesboro, Arkansas » Delta Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #386585

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

Location: Delta Water Management Research

Title: Early cascade rice irrigation shutoff (ECIS) conserves water: implications for cascade flood automation

item Massey, Joseph
item SMITH, M.CADE - University Of Mississippi
item JARDIM, THAIS - Arkansas State University
item AVILA, LUIS - Federal University Of Pelotas
item HASHEM, AHMED - Arkansas State University
item Reba, Michele

Submitted to: Irrigation Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/31/2022
Publication Date: 9/27/2022
Citation: Massey, J., Smith, M., Jardim, T., Avila, L., Hashem, A., Reba, M.L. 2022. Early cascade rice irrigation shutoff (ECIS) conserves water: implications for cascade flood automation. Irrigation Science. (2022).

Interpretive Summary: Cascade rice flood distribution is the preferred method of rice irrigation in the Lower Mississippi River Basin. It is also the least efficient method available to producers. This study used a model to show that by basing rice irrigation decisions on flood depths in the next-to-last rice paddy of a field, irrigation savings of nearly 20% (relative to conventional practices) could be achieved. This savings is due to capturing excess irrigation and rainfall which, in turn, reduces field runoff. These study results provide insights into how this practice could be automated, saving water and, possibly, making the lives of rice producers a less hectic.

Technical Abstract: Cascade rice flood distribution (CASC), the predominate method used for rice irrigation in the lower Mississippi River basin (LMRB), is inherently water intensive owing to the need to overfill rice paddies to move irrigation water from one paddy to the next. The objectives of this research were to devise practices that make CASC more water efficient, assessing how early cascade rice irrigation shutoff (ECIS) impacts applied irrigation, run-off, and flood depth under LMRB rainfall conditions. This research used a conservation-of-mass model to show that using flood depth in the penultimate rice paddy to trigger irrigation shutoff in a 16-ha simulated rice field results in nominal irrigation water savings of 23% relative to CASC. This savings was reduced to 15% when supplemental irrigation was added to the last paddy at two critical stages of rice production. Field run-off estimates for ECIS were reduced by up to 78% relative to a CASC for both clay and silt loam soils, demonstrating how with ECIS the last paddy of a rice field acts as a ‘catch basin’ for excess up-field irrigation and uncaptured rainfall. Flood depth estimates for the last paddy resulting from ECIS resembled those of alternate wetting and drying flood management (AWD), suggesting that the agronomics developed for AWD could be used to help address production issues arising in the catch basin from ECIS. Success in coupling ECIS with irrigation automation technologies could reduce aquifer withdrawals across the rice producing areas of the LMRB.