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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 #409713

Research Project: Dryland and Irrigated Crop Management Under Limited Water Availability and Drought

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: Evaluation of mobile drip irrigation and irrigation technologies for watermelon production and water use efficiency in the Texas High Plains

item LEIVA SOTO, ANDREA - Texas A&M Agrilife
item XUE, QINGWUE - Texas A&M Agrilife
item O`Shaughnessy, Susan
item Colaizzi, Paul
item SHRESTHA, RAJAN - Texas A&M Agrilife
item WORKNEH, FEKEDE - Texas A&M Agrilife
item RUSH, CHARLES - Retired Non ARS Employee

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/29/2023
Publication Date: 10/31/2023
Citation: Leiva Soto, A., Xue, Q., O'Shaughnessy, S.A., Colaizzi, P.D., Shrestha, R., Workneh, F., Rush, C.M. 2023. Evaluation of mobile drip irrigation and irrigation technologies for watermelon production and water use efficiency in the Texas High Plains [abstract]. 2023 ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meeting, October 29-November 1, 2023, in St. Louis, Missouri.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: There are 2.6 million hectares in the Texas High Plains that are irrigated by the water from the Ogallala Aquifer. The decline of the Ogallala water table raises a concern for the sustainability of producing traditional irrigated field crops due to their high-water demand. Thus, farmers are considering alternative crops such as high-value vegetables in their current cropping systems. About 70% of the irrigated cropland uses center pivot systems, which may negatively impact specialty crop quality compared to drip irrigation. Thus, a field experiment is being conducted to assess the use of Mobile Drip Irrigation (MDI) compared to the Low Elevation Sprinkler Application (LESA) system in center pivots to produce fresh watermelon. Treatments include two methods for irrigation application with different distances between MDI drop hoses, and different estimation methods for water demand. Distances between MDI drop hoses are 15-, 30-, and 60-in (MDI15, MDI30, MDI60, respectively), while LESA hoses have a 60-in distance (LESA60). The different estimation methods for water demand include the Irrigation Scheduling and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (ISSCADA) plant/soil feedback system, and a manual irrigation scheduling based on volumetric soil water content measured with neutron probes. Additionally, the ISSCADA plant/soil feedback method was compared to the weather-based irrigation scheduling method for the MDI15 system. We evaluated treatment effects on crop yield, water use efficiency (WUE), yield water productivity (YWP), fruit quality, and crop physiological responses. Based on the field data from the first year, the use of the MDI system resulted in greater biomass WUE, YWP, photosynthesis/transpiration rates, and stomatal conductance compared to LESA. Results of this first year of the experiment suggest that using MDI and ISSCADA technologies is a good alternative for farmers that use center pivots and aim to diversify their current cropping system with high-value vegetable crops such as watermelon.