IRRIGATION MANAGEMENT IN DROUGHT CONDITIONS
Even though we have been graced with a wetter summer than last year, drought conditions still exist across the Lewis & Clark Natural Resources District. Paying close attention to irrigation needs is important to maintain a consistent water supply. Efficient use of irrigation water can improve the maximum economic return from crops and benefit water resource sustainability. Measuring water use can help better understand water applied and the efficiency of water used to produce crop yield. Excess irrigation application can result in pollution of water sources due to the loss of nutrients through leaching, runoff, and soil erosion. Inadequate irrigation application results in crop water stress and yield reduction.
LCNRD promotes efficient irrigation water use through the use of flowmeters and best management practices. Flow meters are used to measure the amount of water that is being pumped from the well. Flowmeters are installed at the base of the pivot or in line with the well and the pivot, and the meters measure the well output, so farmers are able to know exactly how much water is being applied. Flowmeters are required on all new and replacement high-capacity wells in the LCNRD.
Nebraska has more than 8.6 million irrigated acres with approximately 80 percent under sprinkler irrigation systems, 19 percent under surface water irrigation, and less than 1 percent of acres are micro irrigated. In practice, it is seldom possible to deliver every single drop of irrigation water to exactly where it is needed due to the effects of evaporation, wind, or runoff.
Irrigation efficiency is described by several terms that refer to how efficiently irrigation water is applied and/or used by the crop. High irrigation efficiency translates to lower operating costs, improved production per unit of water delivered, and improved environmental benefits. It is important for both producers and irrigation management professionals to be able to evaluate a crop’s water needs to be as efficient as possible.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension has a series of NebGuides that cover irrigation efficiency and irrigation strategies to help with irrigation management at https://extensionpubs.unl.edu/search/?keyword=irrigation+management. To learn more about how to improve your system’s irrigation efficiency talk with your local UNL Extension office or reach out to your local irrigation water specialist. If you need help finding an irrigation water specialist contact the Lewis & Clark NRD office at 402-254-6758.