On Farm

Managing Water On-Farm

For many farmers, the low price of water makes investment in more efficient yet often more expensive irrigation technologies unlikely. So Texas AWE has focused on finding readily achievable means of conserving water on-farm that involve modifying current practices rather than promoting completely new ways of irrigating.

And in the process, the project has documented low-cost methods for managing on-farm water that actually improve product quality and enhance net farm income.

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Texas AWE has analyzed a variety of water-saving irrigation technologies and techniques with help from such partners as:

  • Texas A&M University Kingsville Citrus Center;
  • Texas A&M AgriLife FARM Assistance program; and
  • numerous producers in Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties, who served as case studies for several years of field testing and analysis.

Case in point: In the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas AWE has proven that “narrow border flood” (NBF) irrigation for citrus uses half as much water as traditional “large-pan flood” irrigation while producing more than double the amount of Net Cash Farm Income (NCFI). NBF can produce similar results in other laser-leveled orchards and nut groves.

Detailed findings on NBF, surge valves, and other on-farm research funded by Texas AWE are provided in a series of FARM Assistance Focus reports published by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Hands-on training in low-cost, efficient irrigation techniques is available at the project's Rio Grande Center for Ag Water Efficiency.

On-Farm Fact Sheets

The following fact sheets provide summaries of some of the AWE research projects listed in greater detail below.

Research: Practical Results

The following articles illustrate the research funded by Texas AWE over the past several years, and potential water savings and increased Net Farm Cash Income (NCFI) using modified irrigation techniques. All articles courtesy of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service publication FARM Assistance Focus.

Results indicate that the highest net cash farm income (NCFI) was with border flood.

Demonstration results indicate that incentives to invest and adopt surge irrigation currently exist and improve as water prices increase.

An evaluation of the economic viability of water conservation practices, comparing surge vs. furrow irrigation in sugar cane, to identify cost-effective and efficient water delivery systems, especially in times of limited water availability.

An economic assessment of furrow and surge irrigation as efficient water delivery systems in cotton production in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, assuming restricted water availability.

An evaluation of flood irrigation and compost use in South Texas grapefruit production. Under flood irrigation, composting may have a NCFI and cash flow advantage over not using compost in citrus production.

An assessment of irrigation methods on grapefruit in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The results indicate that border flood may have a NCFI and cost advantage over flood, drip and micro-jet irrigation systems in grapefruit production when evaluated using fresh vs. juice pack-out as a barometer.

An evaluation of flood and 1-line drip irrigation for new orchard establishment for grapefruit in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The results reflect a probable 16-17 year pay-out for both the flood and 1-line drip irrigation systems based on average yields and 2009 dollars.

An evaluation of 2-line drip and micro-jet spray irrigation for grapefruit in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The demonstration sites reflect profitable use of 2-line drip and micro-jet spray technology in irrigated production of Red Rio grapefruit.

An evaluation of 1-line drip and micro-jet spray irrigation for grapefruit in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Both systems illustrate potential water application and irrigation cost scenarios.

A study of the impact of volumetric water pricing for seed corn comparing surge versus furrow irrigation in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Surge technology has potential for water savings in seed corn production, compared to furrow irrigation.

An analysis of narrow border flood and 2-line irrigation for oranges in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The demonstration sites reflect profitable use of both methods in irrigated production of oranges.

An analysis of narrow border flood and micro-jet spray irrigation for grapefruit in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The demonstration sites reflect profitable use of both methods in irrigated Rio Red grapefruit production.

An evaluation of surge irrigation for cotton in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. All three demonstration sites reflect profitable use of surge valve technology in irrigated cotton production.

A look at the impact of volumetric water pricing for cotton comparing furrow versus drip irrigation in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Drip technology shows potential for water savings in cotton production.

A look at the impact of volumetric water pricing for cotton comparing furrow versus surge irrigation in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. A surge valve technology demonstration suggests potential water savings in cotton production.

A look at the impact of volumetric water pricing for sugarcane comparing furrow versus surge irrigation in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. A surge valve technology demonstration suggests potential water savings in sugarcane production.