TAPS Irrigation Season Comes to End Amid Drought

Corn irrigation

TAPS Irrigation Season Comes to End Amid Drought

Irrigation decisions in the Testing Ag Performance Solutions (TAPS) farm management competitions ranged widely this year, even amid a drought throughout the region.

According to rainfall gauges located near the TAPS fields, 8.92 inches of rainfall was collected from May 1 to Sept. 30, 2022.

In 2021, that amount totaled 14.45 inches, with 2020 being almost identical with 8.95 inches, following the wettest year in recent history in 2019 when 21.2 inches was collected. Whereas 2018 was very similar to 2021 with 14.9 inches.

The 2022 TAPS irrigation season began earlier than last year with participants having the opportunity to irrigate starting June 6 and concluding Sept. 15.  

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


For the second year, the sorghum participants did not make irrigation decisions. All 16 irrigated sorghum farms received the same amount of irrigation water throughout the season. The total irrigation applied to the plots was 10 inches.

SDI Corn

The SDI irrigation system was first initiated on June 13 by two teams. Among the 16 teams in the SDI corn competition, irrigation was scheduled by at least two teams on every provided opportunity. The system was first initiated by Farms 4 and 13 and was concluded on Sept. 15 by Farms 1, 5, 8, 12, 13 and 14. Three irrigation opportunities were cancelled or reduced due to rainfall events in July. Except for the control (Farm 9), the total irrigation applied among the SDI corn teams ranged from 7.05 (Farm 14) to 17.15 inches (Farm 5), and with an average of 11.03 inches. This average far exceeded that of the 7.91 inches average in 2021.

Sprinkler Corn

The pivot was first initiated on June 9 by two teams, and like the SDI system, the pivot ran at every irrigation opportunity. Due to rainfall received, irrigation was cancelled three times in July. Farms 7 and 12 requested the first irrigation, and Farms 2, 12, 15, 17, 22, 24, 26, 27, 28 and 31 finished out the season with irrigation requests on the final day. Except for the control (Farm 9) and one other UNL test plot (Farm 20), the total irrigation applied among the corn teams ranged from 0.63 (Farm 25) to 22.24 inches (Farm 12), with an average of 9.75 inches. This average is higher than the 2020 and 2021 averages of just over seven inches.  

These irrigation decisions that participants made will be vital as the 2022 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. The final results and awards will be presented at the annual Awards Banquet, scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 14 in Kearney, Nebraska.

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A field of corn.