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Nebraska Agricultural Water Management Demonstration Network (NAWMDN): Integrating Research and Extension/Outreach

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 26(4): 599-613. (doi: 10.13031/2013.32066) @2010
Authors:   S. Irmak, J. M. Rees, G. L. Zoubek, B. S. van DeWalle, W. R. Rathje, R. DeBuhr, D. Leininger, D. D. Siekman, J. W. Schneider, A. P. Christiansen
Keywords:   Water conservation, Irrigation management, Reference evapotranspiration, Crop evapotranspiration, Soil moisture

Abstract . Maximizing the net benefits of irrigated plant production through appropriately designed agricultural water management programs is of growing importance in Nebraska, and other western and Midwestern states, because many areas are involved in management and policy changes to conserve irrigation water. In Nebraska, farmers are being challenged to practice conservation methods and use water resources more efficiently while meeting plant water requirements and maintaining high yields. Another challenge Nebraska experiences in it's approximately 3.5-million-ha irrigated lands is limited adoption of newer technologies/tools to help farmers better manage irrigation, conserve water and energy, and increase plant water use efficiency. In 2005, the Nebraska Agricultural Water Management Demonstration Network (NAWMDN or Network) was formed from an interdisciplinary team of partners including the Natural Resources Districts (NRD); USDA-NRCS; farmers from south central, northeast, west central, and western Nebraska; crop consultants; and University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty. The main goal of the Network is to enable the transfer of high quality research-based information to Nebraskans through a series of demonstration projects established in farmers' fields and implement newer tools and technologies to address and enhance plant water use efficiency, water conservation, and reduce energy consumption for irrigation. The demonstration projects are supported by the scientifically-based field research and evaluation projects conducted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, South Central Agricultural Laboratory located near Clay Center, Nebraska. The Network was formed with only 15 farmers as collaborators in only one of the 23 NRDs in 2005. As of late 2009, the number of active collaborators has increased to over 300 in 12 NRDs and 35 of 93 counties. The Network is impacting both water and energy conservation due to farmers adopting information and newer technologies for irrigation management. The NAWMDN is helping participants to improve irrigation management and efficiency by monitoring plant growth stages and development, soil moisture, and crop evapotranspiration. As a result, they are reducing irrigation water application amounts and associated energy savings is leading to greater profitability to participating farmers. For example, surveys of 300 NAWMDN participants in 2008 estimated water conservation at an average of 66 mm for maize and 55 mm for soybean on 114,000 ha (58,000 ha of maize and about 56,000 ha of soybean). With 2008 diesel fuel prices, this water conservation was an equivalent of $2,814,000 and $2,270,000 for maize and soybean, respectively, in energy costs saved for the land area represented. Since the beginning of the NAWMDN, over 8,650 producers, crop consultants, and agricultural industry personnel have been reached and educated at over 231 meetings. This article describes the goals and objectives of the Network, technical and educational components, operational functions, and procedures used in the NAWMDN. The quantitative impacts in terms of water and energy conservation are reported.

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