Improved irrigation scheduling for freshwater conservation in the desert southwest U.S.
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© 2017, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. El Paso County, located in the far west part of Texas in USA, is experiencing record water shortages due to prolonged drought conditions. County irrigation district caters to about 24,000 ha and of which about 6000 ha is under pecans, a water intensive tree crop. The current method of irrigation scheduling depends on farmer’s intuition or counting number of days since previous irrigation. This has resulted in over irrigation and wastage of precious freshwater. This study evaluated the potential for freshwater conservation by scheduling irrigation based on real-time soil moisture data and its effects on pecan yields and soil salinity. Real-time soil moisture conditions in five mature pecan orchards were monitored and irrigation was scheduled when the levels reached threshold value. Both frequency and amount of irrigation were lower under irrigation scheduling based on soil moisture than the traditional method. While the results of this 3 year study indicated that irrigation scheduling based on soil moisture conditions could save significant amounts of freshwater without adversely affecting pecan nut yields and soil salinity, long-term studies are needed to confirm these results. It is estimated that improved irrigation scheduling can potentially save 1820 ha-m of precious freshwater across the irrigation district.
author list (cited authors)
Ganjegunte, G., & Clark, J.