A Busy Irrigation Season for 2021

A Busy Irrigation Season for 2021

Although this year’s average rainfall received at the Testing Ag Performance Solutions (TAPS) fields from May 1 through Sept. 30 surpassed the 2020 total, it fell short of the historical average for the same period.

According to the Farmer’s Edge gauge, located at the edge of the TAPS pivot field, 14.45 inches of rainfall was collected during the May 1 to Sept. 30 window in 2021.

In 2020, that amount totaled 8.95 inches, following the wettest year in recent history in 2019 when 21.2 inches was collected. The same time period in 2018 was very similar to this season with 14.9 inches.

The 2021 TAPS participants had the opportunity to irrigate starting June 17 through Sept. 16.

The following is a brief summary of the irrigation decisions made in each competition this year.

SDI Corn irrigation
Sprinkler corn irrigation

SDI Corn Competition

Between the 16 teams in the SDI corn competition, the SDI system was operated by at least one team at every provided opportunity from June 17 through Sept. 16. The system was first initiated by farms 3, 10 and 14 on June 17 and was concluded on Sept. 16 by farms 2, 3 and 14. Only one irrigation opportunity was cancelled, due to rainfall events. With the exception of the control (farm 9), the total irrigation applied among the SDI corn teams ranged from 0.0 (farm 15) to 17.7 inches (farm 3), and with an average of 7.91 inches. This average exceeded that of 2020, even though the rainfall for 2021 amounted to more than the prior year. 

Sprinkler Corn Competition

Similar to the SDI system, the pivot also ran at every irrigation opportunity from June 17 through Sept. 16. The pivot irrigated corn competition was afflicted with equipment malfunctions a few times throughout the season though, which ultimately eliminated three irrigation opportunities. Due to rainfall received, irrigation was also cancelled three times throughout the season. Five teams (farms 17, 23, 26, 28 and 30) first initiated the irrigation system on June 17, which then concluded on Sept. 13 (farms 5, 7, 21, 23, 24, 25 and 27). With the exception of the control (farm 9), the total irrigation applied among the corn teams ranged from 1.45 (farm 28) to 15.26 inches (farm 26), and with an average of 7.23 inches. This average is nearly identical to the 2020 average of 7.29 inches despite the additional rainfall this year. The 2018 season was very similar in total rainfall amount as noted above, but the average irrigation in the sprinkler corn competition that year was slightly lower than this year at 6.88 inches. 

Sorghum Competition

In the reformatted sorghum competition, this year’s participants did not make irrigation decisions. All 16 irrigated sorghum plots received the same amount of irrigation water throughout the season. The total irrigation applied to the plots was nine inches.

These irrigation decisions that participants made will be vital as the 2021 program comes to an end, and the winners are determined for this year’s competitions. Please watch for more information to come after biomass sampling results are released and as harvest is completed.

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