The Roundup -

Water Use Efficiency Study on Irrigated Small Grains to Be Discussed at MonDak Ag Days


At the MonDak Ag Days and Trade Show on Thursday, March 7th, Jim Staricka, Soil Scientist at the NDSU Williston Research Extension Center, will be discussing his research project on the effects of reduced irrigation on small grain yield and quality. “This study was done at our Nesson Valley research site using overhead (i.e. sprinkler) irrigation. We investigated four different irrigation rates on each crop. I will be presenting data collected during the past nine cropping seasons,” explained Staricka.

In Staricka’s research project he wanted to find out how much, if any, irrigation amounts could be reduced without adversely affecting crop yield or crop quality.

In some areas of the country water supply is becoming limited, sometimes to the point that restrictions on the amount of water that can be used for irrigation have been implemented. Currently this is not a concern locally but reducing the amount of water needed for irrigation may reduce the possibility of water restrictions being imposed in the future.

“Overhead irrigation is more water-efficient and allows more fine-tuning of irrigation amounts than surface irrigation (flood irrigation). Thus, the findings of this research may be especially beneficial to farmers who have switched from flood to center pivot irrigation.

The overall project includes four different crops grown in rotation: durum, sugarbeet, barley, and potato. Tyler Tjelde and I have split up the analysis and reporting responsibilities: he does the sugarbeet and potato data and I do the durum and barley data,” said Staricka.

So far Staricka has found that reducing irrigation by one-third reduced durum yields in some years but does not reduce the quality of durum or the yield and quality of barley. During his presentation, he will be discussing in more detail the magnitude of the effects observed with a one-third reduction and the effects of greater irrigation reductions.

Staricka said, “This experiment has run in its present form for nine years. That has allowed us to observe the effect of reduced irrigation amounts under a variety of weather conditions, indicating the findings are applicable under a wide range of conditions.”

Staricka included that he was surprised by how small of an effect reducing irrigation by one-third had. “During the last six months I’ve heard researchers in other areas have found similar results, so that strengthens my confidence in our findings,” explained Staricka.

This growing season, Staricka plans to repeat the study without any changes, thus obtaining data from an additional set of weather conditions.

“In the current form, the reduced irrigation amounts have been applied throughout the entire growing season. In the future (maybe starting in 2020), we hope to look at the effect of reducing irrigation amounts for only part of the growing season,” said Staricka.

Staricka hopes this information is helpful to farmers in improving their water use efficiency. Water savings achieved by reducing irrigation amounts may allow farmers to expand their irrigated acreage without increasing total water demand, or it may help them comply with future water restrictions

You can hear more about Staricka’s research on water use efficiency on irrigated small grains at 3:45 pm at the Richland County Event Center located in Sidney, Montana.


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