June 30, 2006
Surge irrigation valves available for loan
Improving Surface Irrigation Efficiency
It appears we are headed for yet another year where irrigation water is limited in the North Platte Valley of Nebraska and Wyoming. Reservoirs remain low and runoff was not what was expected.
However, irrigation has started, and applying water as efficiently as possible will be the name of the game. In the past few years, we have seen approximately 8,000 to 10,000 acres of land per year converted from furrow irrigation to center pivot. The center pivot allows water to be applied more uniformly, thus improving application efficiency. In other words with a center pivot we don't have water running off the field or deep percolating below the soil profile, which decreases application efficiency. Over the last few years 50,000-75,000 acres in the valley have been converted to center pivot, but that still leaves nearly 350,000 acres that are surface irrigated. What can surface irrigators do to improve application efficiency?
Irrigators can make a number of management changes to improve application efficiency; furrow stream size, field length, or changing set times are examples.
Surge irrigation is a method that can improve application efficiency by reducing runoff and deep percolation but the system can also help to reduce labor at the same time. Surge irrigation has been used successfully for a number of years and most all users see the results in the first season, if not in the first irrigation.
Read some of the responses irrigators in the North Platte Valley have had after using surge.
- "I was able to make 12-hour surge sets which allowed me to change water twice a day." (This schedule resulted in 6 hour set times)
- "My field is normally difficult to irrigate and it takes about 13 days to get across. With the surge valve, it only took about four days."
- "Water savings occur throughout the entire growing season, but was most effective during the first irrigation. I saved labor by not hiring someone for the summer."
To show the advantages of surge irrigation, the University of Nebraska, in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Wyoming Area Office, is conducting surge irrigation demonstrations. Six surge valves are available for loan to irrigators within the North Platte Irrigation project. The university will assist irrigators in selecting a field and helping to determine the best layout for the system. The valve can be used for the entire growing season so irrigators can try out surge without making an investment until they are convinced this irrigation method is for them.
If you have an interest in trying surge, contact Dean Yonts at 632-1246 or Dave Reichert at 632-1235 at the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center.
C. Dean Yonts
Panhandle Research and Extension Center, Scottsbluff