U.S. Water News Online
CLOVIS, N.M. -- A New Mexico State University researcher is
trying to help grain farmers and dairies in eastern New Mexico while
at the same time reducing the amount of water that goes to
Most of New Mexico's growing dairy industry uses high-energy corn
silage to bulk up their milk cows, but it takes a lot of water to
grow corn in hot, dry New Mexico.
NMSU agronomy specialist Mark Marsalis is looking at cutting the
water use by switching production from corn to forage sorghum.
"The underground water resources that we use for irrigation here
in eastern New Mexico are limited," said Marsalis, who works at the
university's Agricultural Science Center in Clovis. "Pumping large
amounts of water to produce high-yielding corn silage is not
Grain sorghums generally grow about waist high, while forage
sorghums vary between 7 to 15 feet tall, producing the large amounts
of silage that dairies require.
In harvesting silage, the entire aboveground part of a plant --
leaves, stems and grain -- is chopped and put into a silo or pit for
later use as feed.
Marsalis began a limited irrigation study last spring, comparing
the yield and nutrient value of two types of forage sorghum to corn.
Both forage sorghums did better than corn on the basis of yield per
amount of water used, but Marsalis was still looking at quality data.
The experiment tested how well corn and the sorghums did with less
water -- about 20 inches over a 120-day growing cycle. Corn typically
needs 30 inches for a good crop.
Marsalis is continuing to examine the long-term quality of the
feed this winter along with the yield data from four experimental
plots at the 164-acre science center north of Clovis.
"Our goal is to help farmers better determine the trade off from
an economic and resource-conservation perspective," he said.
New Mexico is the nation's fastest growing milk-producing state,
currently ranking seventh in dairy product sales, NMSU said.
Curry, Chaves and Roosevelt counties on the state's east side
account for more than 63 percent of the state's dairy cattle. New
Mexico's 180 dairies and 326,000 dairy cattle add $730 million to the
state's economy, the university said.
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