Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Farming with drip irrigation consumes more water

From LA Times Greenspace
By Bettina Boxall


It's the opposite of conventional wisdom: When farmers use drip irrigation on their crops, they wind up consuming more water than if they used less efficient irrigation techniques. At least that's what water resources professor Frank A. Ward concludes in a new study.

Ward, who is on the faculty of New Mexico State University, used computer models to analyze farm water use in the upper Rio Grande River basin.

While drip irrigation can require half the water that flood irrigation does, plants absorb more water with drip, crop yield increases and more water is lost to evapotranspiration. Because drip is more efficient, there is also less overflow to seep back into aquifers or wash into nearby streams or rivers.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2008/11/farming-with-dr.html

14 comments:

Tom Ash, Director of Conservation, HydroPoint Data Systems said...

My experience with drip irrigation on Ag comes to similar conclusions but from a different perspective. When drip irrigation is used the water application is basically out of site and out of mind for the irrigators. The water applications tend to be longer, partly due to the lower precip rates of drip emitters. But with long (unsubstantiated) run times, water from drip irrigation percolates well past the plant root zone, ending up as wasted water.
So the perception that drip is more efficient is right, but it also must be understood that drip irrigation is only one factor in applying water efficiently to a crop. The other key factors are (1) the crop coefficient, (2) the localized daily ET and (3) the irrigation schedule based on soil type, plant type, slope, precip rate, and root depth. Drip irrigation simply applies the scheduled water in a specific way, albeit more directly or efficiently, but not necessarily the overall right amount. The "right" amount of water is independent from the application method, such as drip irrigation.

bryan flake said...

That is an interesting idea that drip irrigation uses more water. It does make sense that just because water is applied in one way, doesn't mean it is effective. As you've shown, the soil or the product may not take to water being applied in such a way. The crop may get too much water or not enough.


http://www.newenglandtreeandlandscape.com

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