Irrigation Efficiency In Row Crop Production

Dr. Naveen Adusumilli
Extension Economist, LSU AgCenter
Addressing irrigation efficiency continues to emerge as one of the potential solutions to improve the profitability of the production enterprise. Tools to improve irrigation efficiency are not new. Moreover, new tools continue to emerge; however, adoption is still minimal in most parts of the state. Sharing knowledge of such tools, discussing the benefits of adoption, understanding the role of new tools in improving the overall bottom line should be a priority, especially when crop production is only becoming more expensive due to higher input prices and lower crop prices.


Development And Validation Of Alternate Wetting And Drying (AWD) Water Management For Rice grown In The Mid-South

Lee Atwill
Extension Associate II, Mississippi State University - DREC
Rice irrigation currently accounts for the greatest amount of irrigation water applied per acre over corn, soybeans, and cotton in the mid-south. This study was conducted to establish safe and efficient alternate wetting and drying (AWD) water management practices, while maintaining grain yield and improve overall farm profitability. Preliminary results of this study will be discussed.


Effects Of Water Management Strategies On Total Water Use, Yield, Weed Control And Economic Return In U.S. Rice Production

Lee Atwill
Extension Associate II, Mississippi State University - DREC
Three rice cultivars (Rex, CL151, XL753) were produced on a Sharkey clay soil located in Stoneville, MS. Three water management strategies (continuous flood, alternate wetting and drying, furrow irrigated) were investigated. Five fertilization treatments were applied at different split intervals according to growth stage. Conventional and Clearfield herbicides were applied at different growth stages and evaluated for weed control. Rice grain yield was determined at harvest maturity.


Our Irrigation History Through The Years

Tim Clements
Mississippi Farmer:Soybeans, Corn, Rice
Clements will discuss the conservation practices and irrigation management efforts he has taken on all his crops through the years. These include the use of soil moisture sensors, computerized hole selection, surge valves and timers. He grew up on the farm and has been farming on his own since 1986. He holds a bachelor's degree in business management from Delta State University after attending Mississippi State for several semesters, and is the current chairman of the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board.


Using Multiple or Side Inlet Rice Irrigation with polytubing and Pipe Planner improves water distribution and decreases pumping time and labor in rice production

Chris DeClerk
Irrigation Specialist, Delta Plastics of the South
The process of using polytubing to irrigate rice is very rewarding when installed correctly and managed throughout the season. It requires little to no change to the layout of the field, and with the help of Pipe Planner, a producer can best determine how many holes or gates to punch in the polytubing so that each individual rice paddy receives the water it requires. Data from the field needed for Pipe Planner include: Flowrate from the water source, fall per levee and height of the levee. Pipe Planner has built-in functionality to assist the user in mapping the area of each individual paddy and in some cases, tractor data collected from building of levees can be uploaded directly into Pipe Planner. The user then determines to apply the pipe to the side of the field (side inlet) or through the middle of the field (multiple inlet). Once the polytube is drawn using the mapping tools, a hole or gate design is automatically processed, which can be used immediately or stored for later use. If the polytube is applied correctly in the field and the Pipe Planner plan is followed, minimum labor is required to maintain a shallow flood within each individual paddy. Additional savings occur by planning around rain events. A producer mastering Multiple or Side Inlet Rice Irrigation techniques can not only benefit from establishing the flood faster but collect rainfall to offset pumping time. This advanced technique has proven savings in fuel and water usage by as much as 25%.
With conventional flooding, rice paddys must fill and flow over the levee gates or boards before cascading to the next paddy. With low flow rates, establishing a flood on rice can be very laborious and time consuming. Shivers Farm in Cleveland, MS have experienced these problems. Waiting on water to fill paddys, seeing water flow off the end of the field and constantly maintaining levee boards during the growing season was enough to sway Brad Shivers to invest in Multiple Inlet Rice Irrigation techniques. Already having a grasp for applying Pipe Planner on all of his row crop land, Brad sought out to use the MIRI tool for his rice fields. Growing 440 acres of rice this season, Brad elected to use Multiple Inlet Rice Irrigation techniques on two fields totaling 120 acres and used the Pipe Planner application to help determine his gate application. The results were phenomenal. Pumping times for both fields decreased by 2 days per each watering event, leaving time to help assist in irrigating soybeans which were sharing the same water source as his rice crops. MIRI helped distribute the water faster and more effectively between each individual paddy. A better schedule of determining when to irrigate was established and the labor of adjusting levee boards throughout the season was completely eliminated, freeing up time to tend to other areas of the farm. All of this was accomplished without any yield decrease, fear of cold water rice impacts or disease pressure. This was his first time using polytubing on rice and foresees many more acres using this method of rice irrigation for the 2017 growing season. This presentation will highlight what data a producer needs to collect from the field to properly run Pipe Planner and the steps it takes to produce a gate design. With very little effort and a willingness to learn, a producer can reap huge returns when adopting and employing the techniques of Multiple and Side Inlet Rice Irrigation techniques.


Do We Know How To Properly Irrigate Cotton?

Darrin Dodds
Extension Entomologist, Mississippi State University
This presentation will go into detail about growth stages and water demands of cotton. Time will be spent discussing what we consider to be the optimal timing for irrigation applications in cotton.


New Rice Irrigation Technology For Furrow And Flood Irrigation

Dr. Chris Henry
Assistant Professor and Water Management Engineer, University of Arkansas
Grant Beckwith
County Extension Agent U of A Rice Research & Ext. Center
On-farm research and demonstration with furrow irrigated rice was conducted on eight farms in 2016. Comparisons between yield and water use were made between furrow-irrigated and flood irrigated rice across two soil types. Additionally a research site was used to assess the efficacy of surge irrigation, tail water recovery and end blocking to improve irrigation efficiency. Results indicate there are many practices that can be used to improve irrigation efficiency and maintain yields for furrow irrigated rice.


Water Saving Tools To Help Manage Irrigation

Bernie Jordan
Secretary-Cotton Incorporated/Board of Directors
Jordan grew up on a farm and this was his 39th year on his own. He crops a total of 4,500 acres, with 2,000 acres in cotton, 1,200-1,400 acres of corn and the balance in soybeans. He studied ag economics at Mississippi State.


Rowed Rice Production In The Midsouth: Opportunities, Watchouts, And Future Questions

Dr. Trey Koger
Mississippi Farmer: Corn, Cotton, Rice, Soybean, Peanut, Wheat, Silent Shade Planting Co.
Rowed rice production is not a new concept in the midsouth but has found new interest in the rice production area of the midsouth US in recent years due primarily rising production costs and water usage regulations. Over the past two production seasons, rowed rice has been grown on limited acres with outstanding success on our operation. What we have learned is that rowed rice needs to be grown on fields where water pumping capacity is not a limiting factor, tall pads surround the field(s), and aerial application of herbicides and fertilizers can be made in a very timely manner. The last point is critical regardless of the production system (rowed vs. levee rice). The ability to pump high quantities of water across the field during critical periods of the growing season is an absolute necessity. Applying a residual herbicide such as clomazone (Command) at planting and a second application early POST helps to extend residual control of grasses and eases the pressure placed on grass herbicides such as Clincher in a rowed rice environment where a constant flood is not in place for the entire field. Splitting the nitrogen into four applications (early season, pre-flood, and two mid-season) vs. three application may help improve nitrogen utilization efficiency since some of the rice in the rowed rice environment is not grown in a constant flooded anaerobic environment similar to that of levee rice production. This last point needs additional evaluation and research to further understand the dynamics of nitrogen utilization efficiency in a rowed rice production system. We feel that if rowed rice yields are within 5 bushels/Acre of levee rice, the rowed rice is just as if not more profitable than levee rice. This is due to the cost of building and destroying levees, gate installation and monitoring, and costs associated with labor for water management in levee rice production.


Irrigation Water Management Strategies that Improve Corn Yield and/or Profitability

Dr. L. Jason Krutz
Associate Extension/Research Professor, MSU
The Row-crop Irrigation Science Extension and Research (RISER) program has demonstrated how Irrigation Water Management (IWM) practices including computerized hole selection, surge irrigation and soil moisture sensor (SMS) technology reduces irrigation water use up to 47% while improving profitability by $40/acre. However, very few Mid-South irrigators are using IWM practices. The objectives of this session are to 1) illustrate how computerized hole selection and surge irrigation improve irrigation application efficiency; 2) describe how SMS technology improves irrigation scheduling at initiation and termination; 3) identify simple strategies to improve corn yield on sealing soils and 4) examine on-farm case studies where IWM practices significantly improved corn yield and/or profitability.


Cover Crops and Irrigation Application Efficiency in Soybean

Dr. L. Jason Krutz
Associate Extension/Research Professor, MSU
Irrigation capabilities are vital for profitable Mid-South soybean (Glycine max (L.) production. Furrow irrigation systems are of predominant use in Midsouthern agriculture. Inefficiencies inherent to furrow irrigation, including increased runoff volumes and reduced infiltration, result in application efficiencies of approximately 50%. Therefore, efficiency of this application system must be improved to ensure the sustainability of Mid-South irrigated soybean production. This study seeks to determine the effects of conservation tillage practices and cover crops on irrigation application efficiency in the Mississippi River Delta under continuous soybean production. Treatments include conventional tillage without cover crop (CT/NC), reduced tillage without cover crop (RT/NC), reduced tillage with sub-soiling and no cover crop (RT/SS), reduced tillage with cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) cover crop (RT/RC), reduced tillage with tillage radish (Raphanus sativus L.) cover crop (RT/TR), zone tillage without cover crop (ZT/NC), and zone tillage with tillage radish cover crop (ZT/TR). Reduced tillage/sub-soiling, RT/TR, and ZT/TR treatments were added in the second year of the trial. Experimental units (8.13-m wide by 153-m long) were separated by 3-m wide levees and planted with soybean at 345,935 seeds ha-1 and instrumented to mass balance irrigation water runoff volume. Year one results indicate no difference among tillage and cover crop systems for soybean yield and economic return. Zone tillage without cover crop and RT/RC increased furrow advance times by at least 65% relative to CT/NC and RT/NC, while irrigation application efficiency decreased in the order of ZT/NC (87%) = RT/RC (82%) > CT/NC (69%) > RT/NC (44%). Second year results and multi-year trends, including irrigation application efficiency, water use efficiency, infiltration, yield and economic return, will be discussed at length.


Using Conventional Center Pivots To Implement Variable Rate Irrigation

Dr. Brien Leib
Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, University of Tennessee
Center Pivots are most often used to apply water uniformly to a field. However, many fields in the mid-south have several different soils under the same irrigation system and row crops yield better when the timing and amount of irrigation match the soil type. This presentation will show how different row crops respond to irrigation based on soil type, how a conventional center pivot can be operated to form pie shaped Irrigation Management Zones (IMZ), and how to respond to variable weather patterns in each IMZ. Examples will be provided on how this approach was implemented in cooperator fields.


Land Preparation And Irrigation Method Impacts On Peanut Pod Yield

Stephen Leininger
Associate Extension/Research Professor, MSU
Bedding systems and irrigation scheduling techniques that optimize yield and water use efficiency for furrow irrigated peanut [Arachis hypogea (L.)] have not been determined. The objective of these studies was to evaluate alternative bedding strategies and irrigation scheduling methods that optimize peanut yield, quality, and water use efficiency in furrow irrigated environments. Two separate field studies were conducted from 2015 to 2016 at Stoneville, MS on a Bosket sandy loam. For the land preparation study, peanuts were planted on 40-in rows either flat or on raised beds, and irrigation was delivered to either every furrow or every-other furrow. For the irrigation scheduling study, peanuts were planted on 40-in raised beds and irrigated using FAO-56 (atmospheric modeling) at a 2-inch deficit or with watermark soil moisture sensors at a threshold of -50, -75, -100 and -125 centibar (cbar). Peanut yield was not different among bedding systems or irrigation method, i.e., every furrow or every-other furrow. However, peanut quality was improved by 1% Total Sound Mature Kernels (increase of $4.824 in USDA loan value per ton) when planted on a bed and when irrigated every furrow. Relative to FAO-56, sensor based irrigation scheduling improved peanut yield and water use efficiency by 13% and 89%, respectively. Our results indicate peanut yield, quality, and water use efficiency is optimized when planted on a raised bed, irrigated every furrow and when irrigations are scheduled using a -100 cbar threshold.


Evaluation Of A Recharge/Pit Within The Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer In Northeast Arkansas

Dr. Deborah L. Leslie
Postdoctoral Research Hydrologist, Delta Water Management Research Unit, USDA-Agricultural Research Service
Gary Sitzer

Arkansas Farmer:

The Mississippi River Valley alluvial aquifer is an important irrigation resource. Groundwater usage has increased, mostly from irrigation, with withdrawals exceeding recharge, mainly from precipitation. A confining layer of varying thickness overlays the alluvial aquifer, and presents a limitation for effective recharge. A Poinsett County producer formed a contract with the highway department for sand excavation of unfarmed land. Once excavation was complete, the alluvial aquifer uppermost-unsaturated section of well-sorted medium grain size sand was exposed, above the water-table depth of 33 m. The excavation pit provided an opportunity to measure infiltration rates of the alluvial aquifer uppermost section.


How We Use Pipe Planner And Surge Valves To Increase Irrigation Efficiency

Blake McCartney
Louisiana Farmer:
A lot of savings can be reached with irrigation efficiency, and McCartney finds the use of Pipe Planner and surge valves aids in that effort. It saves water, time and pumping as well as, in the end, money. "It has shortened our time we had to run our pump," he says.
Blake raises 900 acres of corn and 600 acres of soybeans. He attended Louisiana State University at Shreveport and studied business. He grew up on a farm and farms now with his brother, Brandon.


A Dynamic Variable Rate Irrigation Control System

Calvin D. Perry
Public Service Assistant, University of Georgia
Currently, VRI prescription maps used to apply water differentially to irrigation management zones (IMZs) are static as they are developed once and do not respond to environmental variables which affect soil moisture conditions. Our approach for creating dynamic prescription maps is to use soil moisture sensors to estimate the amount of irrigation water needed in each IMZ. We deployed the UGA Smart Sensor Array (UGA SSA) wireless soil moisture sensing system along with a modified van Genuchten model to use soil matric potential data from each probe to estimate the volume of irrigation water needed to bring the soil profile of each IMZ back to 75% of field capacity. These estimates are converted into daily prescription maps which we downloaded remotely to a VRI controller thus creating a dynamic VRI control system. During 2015, we conducted an on-farm experiment to assess our system in a 230 ac center pivot irrigated peanut field. We will present the design of our dynamic VRI control system and the results from the 2015 study.


Overhead Irrigation Management For Peanuts

Dr. Wesley M. Porter
Extension Precision Ag and Irrigation Specialist, University of Georgia
Traditionally peanuts have been one of the crops that are overlooked when it comes to irrigation and irrigation scheduling, because unlike corn they typically do not require large amounts of water. However, proper management of irrigation on peanuts has the potential to increase on farm profitability by decreasing the amount of water applied, thus decreasing the energy requirements of irrigation on the farm, and by stabilizing or increasing crop yield. This topic will focus on the utilization of sound irrigation scheduling strategies for peanut.


Lessons Learned From Cover Crop Trials And Demonstrations In The Mississippi Delta

Dan Prevost
Conservationist, Delta F.A.R.M.
The principles of improving soil structure and water infiltration through cover crops and reduced tillage are well documented. Successful and profitable integration of these practices at the farm scale can prove challenging. Since 2014, cover crop trials and demonstrations have been conducted on more than 9,000 acres throughout the Mississippi Delta region. This presentation will cover successes, failures, and lessons learned.


Water Management In MidSouth Rice Production

Dr. Michele L. Reba
Research Hydrologist, USDA-ARS Delta Water Management Research Unit
Dr. Merle Anders
Agronomist, Net-Profit Crop Consultancy, LLC

Rice is the staple crop for over 3 billion people in the world. Arkansas accounts for nearly 50% of US rice production which is distributed over 1 million ha. Irrigation water use in rice production is high relative to other crops and strategies for using less water while maintaining grain yields are being developed. Data collected from production-sized rice fields will be presented to identify opportunities in rice irrigation innovation.


How Pipe Planner Is Helping Us On Our Farm

Brad Shivers
Mississippi Farmer: Rice, Soybeans
Shivers uses Delta Plastics Pipe Planner, a computer-based water conservation and irrigation management tool. He will show how he has implemented the program on his farm and discuss the benefits and savings by using the program.
A graduate of Mississippi State University with a bachelor's degree in microbiology, he grew up on the farm and took over management five years ago alongside his father Jeffrey Shivers. Historically, this was a 2,400-acre cotton farm, but this year he raised 500 acres of rice and 1,900 acres of soybeans.


Setting Up A Corn Irrigation Plan Before Planting

C.D. Simmons, III
Mississippi Farmer: Soybeans, Corn
Simmons plans to discuss corn irrigation and focus on establishing an irrigation plan before planting. "My talk will include using available technology such as Pipe Planner, surge valves and soil moisture sensors to irrigate corn more efficiently," he says.
He raises 4,500 acres of soybeans and 1,500 acres of corn. He has been farming for 18 years and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural economics from Mississippi State.


A Consultant's Perspective Of The Trials And Tribulations of Irrigation

Jason Stanley
Crop Consultant: Corn, Cotton, Soybeans, Milo
Many fields in the south have different soils under the same irrigation system, and they are watering uniformly across the field. When there are varying soil types in a field, irrigation requires a little fine tuning. "If you water the sandy soils to their needs, you end up over-watering the heavy clay soils," he says. There are ways to help make sure that you are adequately watering the field, while catering to soil type needs. Using center pivots which can be programmed to speed up and slow down as they are moving across the field in pie shapes is one option. Soil moisture sensors are an excellent tool that can be utilized to judge the available water a grower has in their soil. When used effectively, they can help maintain approximate moisture levels for the differing soil types within the field.
Stanley holds a bachelor's degree from University of Tennessee at Martin in ag business. He has been a crop consultant for 18 years, centering more heavily on irrigation in the last three years.


Evaluation Of Variable Rate Irrigation In Mississippi Delta

Dr. Ruixiu Sui
Research Agricultural Engineer, USDA-ARS
Soil properties and plant characteristics can vary considerably within a single field resulting in variability of water need for plant to reach its yield potential. Variable rate irrigation (VRI) technology is able to site-specifically apply irrigation water at variable rates within a single field to account for the temporal and spatial variability in soil and plant characteristics. Methods for VRI management were developed and evaluated in Mississippi Delta. VRI management saved 25% irrigation water compared to conventional uniform rate irrigation (URI) management.


Sustainable Rice Practices Using Less Water, Less Fertilizer

Jim Whitaker
Arkansas Farmer: Rice, Corn, Soybeans, Cotton
Whitaker uses alternate wetting and drying on a large scale and finds he still gets good yields. He uses lots of surface water and tail water through a recovery system which allows him to reuse water from other fields. He uses variable rate fertilizer applications to be more site specific. Also, this is his second year selling carbon credits on the rice. With a reduction in carbon in the atmosphere, there are less greenhouse gases and that helps save the environment. "All these practices work really well together," he says.
He and his brother, Sam, raise 6,300 acres of rice, 1,400 acres of corn and 3,000 acres of soybeans and 1,800 acres of cotton. He has been farming for 24 years.


Sustainable Rice Practices Using Less Water, Less Fertilizer

Wilks Wood
Graduate Research Associate, MSU
Whitaker uses alternate wetting and drying on a large scale and finds he still gets good yields. He uses lots of surface water and tail water through a recovery system which allows him to reuse water from other fields. He uses variable rate fertilizer applications to be more site specific. Also, this is his second year selling carbon credits on the rice. With a reduction in carbon in the atmosphere, there are less greenhouse gases and that helps save the environment. "All these practices work really well together," he says.
He and his brother, Sam, raise 6,300 acres of rice, 1,400 acres of corn and 3,000 acres of soybeans and 1,800 acres of cotton. He has been farming for 24 years.