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

Citation:  Paper number  701P0304,  . (doi: 10.13031/2013.15717)
Authors:   K. M. Bali, I. C. Tod, and M. E. Grismer
Keywords:   Alfalfa, Drainage, Groundwater Contribution, Runoff Reduction, Water Use Efficiency

Alfalfa hay production accounts for a significant portion of the water used by agriculture in California; for example, more than 30% of the water used in the Imperial Valley alone. We studied the scope for reducing the water used in alfalfa production by assessing the impact of reducing the surface runoff and increasing the contribution of groundwater to crop water needs. The research was carried out on 3-ha field at the University of California Desert Research and Extension Center located near Holtville, California. The 381 m long field has alluvial clay soil, and was prepared with 20 m wide border strips. Alfalfa was planted in early November, and harvested frequently during a three-year period. The amount of irrigation water applied and the duration of irrigation events were determined using a method to minimize surface runoff. The field was intensively monitored with alfalfa yields, soil salinity, applied irrigation water, surface runoff and water table fluctuations being monitored at 32 locations in the field. Analysis of the data collected indicated that alfalfa yields were maintained even though the surface runoff was reduced from the Valley average of 17% of applied water to about 2% of applied water. The contribution of groundwater to crop ET was about 12 % of the total water applied during the study period, primarily during the first year of the study and decreasing substantially thereafter. The results of the research showed that alfalfa yields can be maintained while reducing applied water and surface runoff and increasing the contribution of groundwater to meet crop water demands.

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