Water-Conserving Irrigation Systems for Furrow & Flood Irrigated Crops in the Mississippi Delta

Author(s): Massey, J.

The goal of this project was to determine the feasibility of using multiple inlet plus intermittent irrigation to reduce water and energy use in Mid-south rice irrigation. Intermittent rice flooding improves rainfall capture and reduces over-pumping by maintaining rice flood heights at less-than-full levels. Depending on soil conditions, weather, and crop stage, the targeted intermittent pumping pattern allows the flood to naturally subside over a period of five to ten days before re-initiating irrigation, resulting in a fully saturated (not dry) soil surface. Field studies are being conducted at four Mississippi producer locations location in Boliver, Coahoma, and Sunflower counties in the Mississippi River Valley delta. Seasonal water use was measured using flow meters in commercial rice fields ranging in size from ~30 to 70 acres. Rainfall inputs were determined using rain gauges at each field location. Rough rice yield and grain quality determined for the upper and lower portions of each paddy of each field were not different, indicating that intermittent flooding does not result in agronomic losses relative to continuous flood. The studies show that when coupled with multiple inlet irrigation, intermittent rice irrigation uses ~20% less water than multiple inlet irrigation alone and only ~5% more than zero-grade irrigation. Having no slope, zero-grade fields are the 'gold standard' for Mid-south rice production in terms of water use. The advantage of the intermittent flood over zero-grade is that water-logging of rotational crops often associated with zero-grade fields is avoided. Rice is typically grown with soybean in a 1-yr rice, 2-yr soybean rotation. The presentation will also summarize results from using the USDA's Phaucet irrigation optimization program designed to improve soybean irrigation efficiency.
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Technical Sessions

1 Best Management Practices #1
2 Delta Water Assessment
3 Flood Assessment & Mgmt.
4 Wetlands
5 Watershed Mgmt. #1
6 Non-Point Source Assessment
7 Modeling
8 Water Quality
9 Best Mgt. Practices #2
10 Delta Water Conservation
11 Sedimentation
12 Storm Water
13 Watershed Mgt. #2
14 Public Water Systems
15 Surface Water Assessment & Evaluation

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