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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Jonesboro, Arkansas » Delta Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #390767

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

Location: Delta Water Management Research

Title: Land-forming for irrigation (LFI) on a lowland soil protects rice yields while improving irrigation distribution uniformity

item BUENO, MARCOS - Instituto Nacional De Investigacion Argropecuaria, Urugary
item ROEL, ALVARO - Instituto Nacional De Investigacion Argropecuaria, Urugary
item FARIA, LESSANDRO - Federal University Of Pelotas
item Massey, Joseph
item PARFITT, JOSE - Embrapa Clima Temperado

Submitted to: Precision Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/25/2022
Publication Date: 8/24/2022
Citation: Bueno, M.V., Roel, A.R., Faria, L.C., Massey, J., Parfitt, J.M. 2022. Land-forming for irrigation (LFI) on a lowland soil protects rice yields while improving irrigation distribution uniformity. Precision Agriculture. 2022.

Interpretive Summary: New technologies and software have given rise to new ways to level soil that reslts in minimal soil disturbance while improving irrigation and drainage. In this study, land forming for irrigation (LFI) was compared to a traditional levee leveling method typical of rice production in Uruguay. The problem being addressed here is that fields often have high spots, that receive no irrigation, and low spots that stay flooded. Land leveling has typically been done to remove (cut) the high spots and deposit the soil (fill) in the low spots. For certain fields, leveling to a uniform slope requires too much soil movement to be economical. Moreover, the places of deep cuts typically have low crop yields. LFI optimizes the land leveling process by allowing natural drainage zones to be maintained while filling in the worst of the field depressions. This study found that LFI resulted in much improved irrigation uniformity (i.e., the flood depths were much more uniform across the rice field as compared to the traditional method) while maintaining rice yields comparable to the traditional levee system. The improved irrigation uniformity and accompanying improved drainage of low permeability soils will set the stage for the inclusion of rotational crops, such as soybean, that otherwise can't be grown on traditional lowland soils. Producers in rice growing areas of Uruguay, South America, and the Mid-Southern USA will benefit from having access to LFI that will make improved land leveling more cost-effective and agronomically sound than continuing to work with unimproved field surfaces.

Technical Abstract: During land leveling topsoil of relative higher elevation zones are removed (cut) and deposited in relative lower elevation zones (fill), this operation could have negative impacts on soil conservation and potentially can affect productivity. Although land leveling is an efficient way of increasing water use efficiency and irrigation uniformity, it can be rather expensive and, in some cases, a significant movement of earthwork may be required. Nowadays, with the technological advancement a new option is available called Landforming for irrigation (LFI). This alternative method potentially allows smaller soil movement and consequently smaller cutting depths while improving irrigation and drainage conditions without affecting productivity. The hypothesis of this study was that applying LFI can allow a more efficient irrigation than the commonly used procedure done by farmers (Control) without affecting productivity. For achieving this, a two-year 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 rice seasons comparison study was done in a semi-commercial field (12 ha) in Uruguay. This was the first time LFI was implemented in this country. For achieving the LFI alternative a soil movement of 104 m3 ha-1 was determined. The depth of cut was in average 0.03 meters, with a maximum cut of 0.16 meters. The total length and number of rice levees were reduced by 14% and 28%, respectively, compared to the adjacent Control field which was not graded. Irrigation water moved across the LFI field more quickly and uniformly as compared to the Control. For both years of the study, there were no differences (P>0.05) in field-average grain yields between the LFI and Control treatments even though yield increases and yield decreases were often associated with specific fill and cut zones, respectively. When data from both seasons are pooled together a significant relation was detected (% yield deviation = 0.81+140 * (cut depth (m)). Taken together, this work demonstrates that, by limiting the amount of soil moved as part of the land forming process, LFI can provide the level of rice productivity as traditional leveling practices common to South America while improving irrigation distribution uniformity, setting the stage for improved furrow irrigation of rotational crops such as soybean.