Automation of Surface Irrigation Systems in Dairy Production Systems in the Central Valley

RESEARCHER: Khaled Bali, UC Davis, ANR

TIMELINE: January 2021 to December 2023

BACKGROUND: Surface irrigation systems are the primary method of irrigation for field crops in California. Most of the water losses through these systems are either by surface runoff or through deep percolation or a combination of both. Various irrigation cutoff methods and practices are used by irrigators to reduce surface runoff and deep percolation; however, the success of these tools depends on irrigation flow rate, crop roughness, and other field characteristics and may not be practical to achieve higher efficiencies without accurate measurements of these variables during the irrigation events.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the time of irrigation to reduce surface runoff and increase irrigation efficiency by redesigning the surface irrigation system for maximum efficiency based on local constraints such as available flow rate, field length, slope, and other field variables. This work will be conducted on major forage production systems in the Central Valley (corn silage and corn-wheat silage double crop) on two commercial fields with a demonstration site for automated surface irrigation at UC Kearny Agricultural Research and Extension Center (KARE) in Parlier.

INDUSTRY BENEFIT: Automation of surface irrigation systems in the Central Valley, particularly when liquid manure is mixed with irrigation water, has the potential to greatly improve irrigation efficiency, reduce the losses of water and nutrients below the root zone, and save labor and energy with potential credits related to the reduced energy (i.e., GHG reduction credits).