U.S. Water News Online
CLOVIS, N.M. -- New Mexico State University is studying
subsurface drip irrigation to help agriculture in Curry and Roosevelt
counties, where groundwater levels are dropping.
Agriculture in the two counties is worth nearly $700 million.
Subsurface drip irrigation reduces water use and is more efficient
at getting water to plants than the low energy precision application
techniques currently used with many center pivot systems to irrigate
crops in the area, said Mark Marsalis, Extension Service agronomist
for NMSU's Agricultural Science Center at Clovis.
Subsurface systems are efficient because water goes directly on
the roots, Marsalis said. The technique also minimizes evaporation
and runoff losses at the surface, which is particularly important in
However, such systems are rare in Curry and Roosevelt counties,
largely because of limited information on system operation and
"With reduced amounts of irrigation water available to producers,
it is imperative that maximum water use efficiency be achieved in
order for farmers to maintain a level of productivity necessary for
continued feed and food supply," Marsalis said.
NMSU's three-year project is aimed at educating producers on
installing and managing subsurface drip irrigation systems and the
benefits of using geographic information systems and global
positioning systems in conjunction with them.
The irrigation technique historically has been used on such
high-value crops as vegetables and alfalfa, Marsalis said. The NMSU
project will use it on corn, sorghum and cotton -- typical crops in
eastern New Mexico -- and compare the technology to conventional
"This demonstration has the potential to increase adoption of the
resource-conserving techniques and could lead to significant water
savings, which may extend groundwater availability for future
generations," Marsalis said.
The study will set drip tapes in a typical 30-inch row spacing and
will manage the experiment to represent common practices in the area.
It will estimate water use efficiency for all crops and evaluate the
crops for the best fit to the drip technique.
The study also will document the differences in water, fertilizers
and pesticides and yields and economic returns.
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