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Trends in Plant Available Soil Water on Producer Fields of Western Kansas

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

Citation:  Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 33(6): 859-868. (doi: 10.13031/aea.12452) @2017
Authors:   Freddie R. Lamm, Danny H. Rogers, Alan J. Schlegel, Xiaomao Lin, Robert M. Aiken, Norm L. Klocke, Loyd R. Stone, L. Kent Shaw
Keywords:   Corn, Field capacity, Soil moisture content, Soil water, Volumetric water content, Wheat.


Residual soil water after harvest and prior to planting was measured to a depth of 2.4 m with neutron attenuation techniques for approximately 45 irrigated corn and 45 dryland wheat fields annually from 2010 through 2012 in the western one-third of Kansas. The sampling locations were in three-county transects in northwest, west central and southwest Kansas with generally five fields for each crop type for each county. Residual plant available soil water (PASW) in corn fields was generally much greater than in wheat fields (150%-160% greater) for any given sampling period illustrating the residual influence of irrigation. Although weather conditions varied between regions and years there was not a strong effect on PASW in irrigated corn fields but there was an effect in dryland wheat fields. Annual differences in fall irrigated corn PASW for the 21 individual fields that were available for sampling in all three years varied less than 50 mm/2.4 m soil profile implying considerable stability in an individual producer‘s response (irrigation management and irrigation system capacity) to changing weather conditions as evidenced by the similar year-to-year PASW values. Drought conditions existed for much of the total period (fall 2010 through fall 2012) in southwest Kansas, yet the irrigated corn PASW was still relatively high (PASW value at approximately 62% of water stored at field capacity in a 2.4 m profile). So, the presence of drought may not be a good indicator of the amounts of residual soil water producers are leaving after irrigated corn harvest. Although differences in irrigated corn PASW varied greatly among producers (183% to 722% within a region), there were much smaller differences between regions and years with a variation from 8% to 22%. Irrigation system capacity (flowrate/area) had very little effect on residual fall PASW in the corn fields possibly indicating that producers with deficit capacity are pumping earlier and later into the season to help mitigate their lower irrigation capacity. Irrigated corn grain yields began to plateau when PASW reached a value of approximately 200 mm/2.4 m profile which would represent a water storage of approximately 56% of field capacity. The residual PASW in irrigated corn fields decreased about 1 mm for each 2 mm decrease in irrigation and cropping season precipitation illustrating the difficulties that can arise in managing for a target residual PASW. These results suggest that producers should be scheduling irrigation with science-based methods, rather than habits and previous experiences.

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