Lateral, Variable-Rate Irrigation System Added to Panhandle REC Research
A new variable-rate, lateral-move irrigation system is being installed on a plot at the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center at Scottsbluff, giving researchers cutting-edge technology to address the needs of irrigated farmers in the Panhandle.
Amir Haghverdi, irrigation water management specialist, said the Zimmatic Precision Variable-Rate Irrigation (VRI) system consists of four spans. It uses groundwater to irrigate a 17-acre plot west of the Panhandle Center building, where corn, sugarbeets, and dry edible beans will be grown.
The new system will roll north and south across the rectangular plot. It will give researchers the ability to create a variety of deficit irrigation scenarios to learn more about conserving water, Haghverdi said.
For years, the plot has been irrigated by a side-roll system that had no variable rate capabilities. The new system allows a different application rate for each nozzle, if desired.
The research is aimed at helping farmers make the best use of available water supplies. Farmers in the Panhandle often face limited supplies of irrigation water because of drought, declining groundwater supplies, or allocations imposed by water-regulating agencies.
Research projects will begin this spring and demonstration plots will be available for viewing this summer. Different types of sensors will also be installed in the soil to measure the status of soil water content, he said.
Researchers will measure parameters such as water use, plant growth, yield, soil moisture in the root zone, and leaching beyond the root zone.
Variable rate systems are potentially useful for not only research, but also real-world production as well, according to Haghverdi. They give irrigators the capability of adjusting the amount of water applied to different conditions in different parts of a field.
Installation of the new system is funded by UNL. A nearby small center-pivot system also will be fitted with variable rate capabilities, Haghverdi said.
Panhandle Research and Extension Center