The current water crisis and threat of reduced water supplies has irrigators in a critical position to ensure each application of water is maximized. An ongoing project at the Sierra Foothill Research & Extension Center, led by Larry Forero, UCCE Director for Shasta County and Livestock and Natural Resources Specialist, examines pasture irrigation efficiency and timing to provide potential solutions for limited water resources.
Gated pipe irrigation in practice at SFREC
For this project, researchers and staff regularly monitor and assess four factors associated with the production of foothill flood irrigated pasture utilizing pipe and ditch delivery methods. These factors include the amount of water applied to the pasture, the amount of water run-off, the effectiveness of irrigation, and the production of the pasture (measured in biomass and AUM harvest).
Soil moisture monitoring is a simple yet useful method utilized to determine irrigation efficiency. Ranging in price from less than ten dollars to several hundred dollars, soil moisture sensors allow irrigation managers to measure water levels beneath the surface and at different locations throughout the field.
Putting soil moisture sensors to use
Preliminary findings indicate that the interval between irrigations could be lengthened in the fall as the days shorten and become cooler. Fewer applications result in less water being used, saving ranchers time, money, and stress. The monitoring for this project will continue through the summer and fall, so check back for additional updates.
With July being “Smart Irrigation Month” this is the time for ranchers to explore opportunities for more efficient irrigation methods using resources like those offered in this post.
Follow this link for additional information about current projects focused on grazing and management of dryland and irrigated pasture at SFREC. Here is a previous blog post about sustainable irrigation practices at this center. This Basic Surface Irrigation Theory In Irrigated Pasture presentation by Allan Fulton, UC Irrigation And Water Resources Farm Advisor, offers basic pasture irrigation principles. The Rangeland Watershed Laboratory with UC Davis provides additional publications, drought information, and links to other resources.
Gary Childers of SFREC monitors research site prior to irrigating