Optimizing water use in agriculture by stacking conservation practices

Matt Yost, Ph.D. Agroclimate Extension Specialist, Utah State University

This project seeks to provide agricultural producers and water managers with tools for optimizing agriculture water use. Utah State University and Southern Utah University are partnering with the irrigation industry, Water Conservancy Districts, soil and water conservation districts, Utah water agencies, and several other federal and state organizations to evaluate and demonstrate over 25 different water optimization practices. The major objective is to “identify which combinations of pivot irrigation and crop management practices result in optimized use of limited water supplies, reduced consumptive use, and the best yield and profit outcomes for producers.” The trials will include evaluations of pivot irrigation technologies such as mobile drip irrigation, low-elevation precision application, and low-elevation spray application. It will also evaluate how the best available drought-tolerant crop genetics, cover crops, tillage practices, and alternative crops influence water optimization. These side-by-side evaluations are the first of their kind and were established in Logan in 2019, Vernal in 2020, and are currently being established in Cedar City. These water optimization trials will continue for several more years with the hope that they can serve as the basis for some of the first long-term irrigation trials in Utah and the Nation where ideal suites of many conservation practices can be studied, demonstrated, and disseminated. This information should be especially useful in guiding water conservation planning at the farm level, which would in turn have large impacts on planning efforts at watershed and basin levels. It will also help irrigators prepare to effectively participate in water banking or sharing programs, should they be developed



Leave a Reply