- Author: Jeffrey P Mitchell
- Author: Gerardo van den Hoek
van den Hoek and his advisory team are evaluating the performance of four corn and four forage sorghum varieties under deficit irrigation using the center pivot irrigation system as the means for imposing roughly 100%, 70%, and 40% amounts of full ET (evapotranspiration) following the application of full ET during the early part of the season. The deficit treatments were recently initiated and van den Hoek's calculations project roughly 25 inches of water being applied to the 100% system, about 20 inches going to the 70% system, and 17 inches to the 40% treatment by the end of the 2015 season. Varietal responses of the corn and sorghum crops are being evaluated in terms of growth and development, yield, and forage quality.
The team will host a public field education event later in the 2015 summer.
The need to produce more food, feed, fiber, and fuel with less water now looms as perhaps the greatest challenge ever faced by farmers worldwide. Our ability to meet this challenge may well determine not only our overall quality of life, but also our very survival in the future. Developing and adopting enhanced irrigation and crop management technologies that achieve greater water-use efficiencies is essential.
What Has ANR Done?
For the past several years, a team of researchers, farmers, and private sector partners has been working at the University of California West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points, Calif. to develop enhanced water and crop management systems for a range of crops commonly produced in the central San Joaquin Valley. This work has focused on the coupling of advanced sustainability technologies (such as precision overhead and subsurface drip irrigation systems) with strip-till and no-till planting to achieve cheaper and more sustainable systems.
The use of overhead irrigation (sometimes called "mechanized" irrigation) is not new in many parts of the world. Overhead pivot irrigation is widely used in the Pacific Northwest, the Great Plains, and the southeast U.S. as well as in many other places around the world. It is the most widely used irrigation system in the U.S. and has been successfully adopted in those regions for decades, but it is not widely used in California.
The Five Points research team is working to couple the proven benefits of overhead irrigation, including labor, cost and water savings, with additional benefits derived from preserving high amounts of surface crop residues. "Our goal," says UC Davis researcher Jeff Mitchell, "is to follow in the steps of legendary South Dakota State University researcher Dwayne Beck, and the no-till farmers he works with, to have crops use water more efficiently."
Coupling precision overhead irrigation with no-tillage increases efficiencies
Working with colleagues at Valley Irrigation in Omaha, Neb., the California team found that irrigation water application uniformity for the overhead system is 93 percent. This excellent level of application uniformity allows for less water use to meet irrigation demand than systems that are less uniform, such as surface or gravity flow furrow irrigation. In addition, the team showed that 13 percent (4 inches) of soil water evaporation can be saved in the soil during a typical summer season when a thick matte of residues is on the soil surface. This research shows the potential for California farmers to reduce water use and evaporation by combining overhead irrigation and no-till practices.
Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, Fresno County Cooperative Extension
1. Jeff Mitchell, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis
2. Wes Wallender, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, UC Davis
3. Will Horwath, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, UC Davis
4. Dan Munk, Fresno County Cooperative Extension
Our CASI Center's John Diener, a Five Points, CA farmer and long-term workgroup member, along with Jeff Mitchell of UC Davis, will be participating as panelists on Monday, April 13th, from 2 – 6 PM in the Tampalpais Room of the David Brower Center at 2150 Allston Way at Oxford Street in Berkeley, CA as part of the Berkeley Food Institute's Food Exchange Series on “Farming practices to reduce risk tied to drought.”
CASI invites you to take part in a very interesting field educational event this Thursday, February 26th, at one of the fields of Danny Ramos and Jonathan Guido of Lucero Farms just south of Hwy 152 about midway between Los Banos and Chowchilla. Take 152 from either the east or west and then take Flanagan Road south about a mile. From there, turn east (left) onto Avenue 21 and follow this road about a mile or so till you see our sign on the right side of the road. Take the dirt road south about a couple hundred yards to the cover crop field.
Call Jeff Mitchell that afternoon at (559) 303-9689 if you need help finding the field.
CASI farmer members, Michael and Adam Crowell of Turlock, Darrell Cordova of Denair, and Scott Schmidt of Five Points, along with Jeff Mitchell, hosted Amelie Gaudin, the new professor of Agroecology in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis at their farms on January 23, 2015 to share with her information about their farms and the efforts they have made to improve their crop production systems. Each of these farmers very graciously welcomed Dr. Gaudin who has been on the job in Davis for only three weeks.
Dr. Amelie Gaudin has tremendous experience with cropping system ecology and is currently establishing her research lab in Davis that is focusing on using agroecological principles to help develop efficient and resilient cropping systems. Three current themes that she will be emphasizing in her research program of her lab group are ecological intensification, climate-smart agroecosystems, and evolutionary root ecology, - all very nicely related to the core goals of our CASI Workgroup.