Low-Energy Precision Application (LEPA) Irrigation: A Forty-Year Review Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract. The low-energy precision application (LEPA) irrigation concept was developed 40 years ago (ca. 1978) to address the depletion of irrigation water from the Ogallala Aquifer and the sharp increase in pumping costs caused by the 1970s fuel crisis occurring at that time in the Texas High Plains. The LEPA method applies water to the soil surface at low pressure using a tower-truss irrigation system that continually moves through the field. This method brought changes in irrigation equipment and management that resulted in improvements in water productivity, particularly in semi-arid locations with diminishing water supplies. A review of published information pertaining to LEPA history, evaluation, and usage was performed. On landscapes of less than 1% slope, negative crop yield effects caused by irrigation runoff and start-stop system alignment were overcome with appropriately spaced basins, or furrow checks, and multiple irrigations over the course of the growing season. No consistent yield advantage at any level of irrigation was documented by placing water in every furrow (1 m spacing) compared to alternate furrows (2 m spacing). In irrigation treatments having =50% of the estimated full irrigation quantity, LEPA resulted in a 16% yield increase over sprinkler methods, although subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) resulted in a 14% yield increase over LEPA. At irrigation levels <50% of full irrigation, crop yields of sprinkler treatments were only slightly less than those of LEPA, and SDI yields were 7% greater than LEPA. The LEPA irrigation method was the catalyst for innovations in chemigation, no-till planting, and site-specific irrigation. As irrigation water becomes more limited, use and proper management of optimum irrigation methods will be critical. Keywords: Basin tillage, Chemigation, Evapotranspiration, Irrigation methods, LEPA, Low-energy precision application, Runoff, Spray irrigation, Sprinkler irrigation, Uniformity, Water use efficiency.

author list (cited authors)

  • Bordovsky, J. P.

citation count

  • 5

publication date

  • January 2019