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New website streamlines flood irrigation resources

By Nathan Gregory

MSU Extension Service

STARKVILLE, Miss.– A new online resource is helping agricultural producers find technologies to improve water conservation on irrigated land.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service is among four land-grant universities collaborating on this web page, which is available at http://surfaceirrigation.extension.msstate.edu. The page hosts dozens of publications and videos related to irrigation, as well as product demonstrations.

According to the Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey, flood irrigation is used on 33% of irrigated land in the U.S., and it accounts for 43% of total irrigation water applications. Yet, only 10% of federal financial assistance for irrigation best management practices has been dedicated to flood irrigation. Also known as surface or furrow irrigation, this method involves flowing water down small trenches that run through fields.

“Many regions in the U.S. have converted from flood to sprinkler and drip irrigation systems on their farmland to increase water efficiency, but one-third of irrigated acres nationally remain under flood systems for any number of hydrologic, agricultural and economic reasons,” said Drew Gholson, an assistant MSU Extension professor and irrigation specialist based at the MSU Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville. “It is important to not overlook flood systems and to foster efforts towards improving water conservation in these systems.”

Oklahoma State University, the University of California and Utah State University collaborate with MSU on the project, which is supported by the Conservation Innovation Grants program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Resources Conservation Service.

“The unique characteristics of flood systems in the four collaborating states allow for identification and evaluation of technologies that can be adopted in other parts of the U.S.,” said Gholson, who is also the coordinator for the National Center for Alluvial Aquifer Research. “Among our goals is to use coordinated Extension activities among partners from the southern to western U.S. to analyze and transfer innovative technologies that can result in water conservation. The perception of producers and factors that influence their acceptance of these technologies will also be evaluated.”