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EM-100

Precision Irrigators Network

J. Bynum, T. Cothren, T. Marek, G. Piccinni

Identifying best management practices (BMPs) promoting greater water use efficiency while maintaining crop yields is essential to the future of Texas cropping systems. Available water for irrigated crops is vital for sustaining crop production throughout the state. However, the availability of this water for irrigation is diminishing through competition by urban development and, in some regions such as the Edwards Aquifer, is falling under state regulation. The awareness and improvement of efficient irrigation and best management practices to conserve water while maintaining crop production will help preserve the aquifer levels and increase water savings to producers.

One component of BMPs for conserving water use is the application of decision support systems (DSS) that are used as tools for implementing irrigation BMPs. This DSS guide was developed as a complement to TWDB Report 362, "Water Conservation Best Management Practices Guide," which is a more comprehensive report on water conservation including an "Agricultural Irrigation Water Use Management" BMPs section. The full TWDB Report 362 can be found at: http://www.twdb.state.tx.us/assistance/conservation/consindex.asp. DSS include the Texas High Plains Evapotranspiration Network (TXHPET), the Precision Irrigators Network (PIN) and the Crop Production Management (CroPMan) model. These DSS strive to promote grower awareness of water conservation strategies. Irrigation conservation strategies are proposed to result in savings of approximately 1.4 million acre-feet per year by 2060 (TWDB and TWRI).

TXHPET operates 18 meteorological stations located in 15 counties across the Texas North Plains and Texas South Plains. The regional coverage of TXHPET is estimated at 4 million irrigated acres. The network offers insight to evapotranspiration (ET)-based crop water use that producers and agricultural consultants can reference when making decisions on when and how much to irrigate their crops. This information is available to data users via fax or online (http://txhighplainset.tamu.edu) and currently results in approximately 300,000 downloads or faxes annually.

The PIN program was formed in 2004 with a goal of saving millions of gallons of water annually by reducing irrigation water use by as much as 20 percent over several years and currently supports several crops (corn, cotton, sorghum, wheat) in seven counties of South Central Texas. Cooperation of the PIN programs consists of area producers, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station researchers, Texas Cooperative Extension personnel, San Antonio Water System, Edwards Aquifer Authority, Texas Water Resources Institute, Texas Water Development Board, Uvalde County Underground Water Conservation District and Wintergarden Water Conservation District. The PIN database will allow producers to gain historical and real-time information for better management of irrigation scheduling. The PIN program estimates that when all irrigators in the Edwards Aquifer region implement limited irrigation scheduling, approximately 50,000 to 60,000 acre-feet of water can be saved per year and made available for purposes other than agriculture.

CroPMan is a computer model designed to aid producers and agricultural consultants in optimizing crop management and maximizing production and profit through a production-risk approach. CroPMan will help growers identify limitations to crop yield, assist in making replant decisions and help recognize management practices that reduce the impact of agriculture on soil erosion and water quality. CroPMan is a Windows-based application program that can be downloaded from the CroPMan Web site (http://cropman.brc.tamus.edu).

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