Colorado State Examines Water Saving Farm Strategies

Management techniques have impact of moisture efficiency.

Published on: Apr 18, 2013

A team of Colorado State University ag and environmental scientists hopes to pinpoint best management practices in crop production to help conserve water during drought. Their project will provide farmers with an online tool to calculate water savings gained from different strategies.

The research effort is supported by an $883,000 USDA Adaptation to Drought Conservation Innovative Grant.

"We are talking a systematic approach to understand how to effectively manage water in the face of  scarcity," explains Neil Hansen CSU Department of Soil and Crop Sciences associate professor and project lead.

"We want to maximize crop per drop meaning crop yield per gallon on water. Water is short, and we've got to get as much as we can from the little we've got."

As the potential for more drought threatens Colorado, officials and farmers are working on ways to tighten their water belts.
As the potential for more drought threatens Colorado, officials and farmers are working on ways to tighten their water belts.

The research is unusual in its involvement of agricultural businesses and scientists from multiple disciplines. Assisting from the private sector is DuPont Pioneer. The effort also engages area farmers through the West Greeley Conservation District and the Lower South Platte Irrigation Research Farm.

CSU researchers will conduct field demonstrations to examine how different approaches to soil, crop and irrigation management affect water conservation, yields and system adaptation to drought.

The project examines water saving benefits gained with adjustments in the following areas:
•Crop management, including use of cover cropping and drought-tolerant crop varieties.
•Soil management, including conservation tillage and soil amendments.
•Irrigation management, including scheduling and variable rate irrigation, which uses space-based
•technologies to tailor water application to varying needs within a field.
•Sensors will be used to track soil moisture and crop stress.

"Colorado's agricultural producers have been at the forefront of new conservation technologies that help more efficiently produce food, fiber and fuel for the country largely due to CSU's leadership in agricultural research," adds Hansen.

"This grant will help CSU continue to develop new ways for farmers and ranchers to protect their land, crops and water."