While irrigation is a vital part of our nation’s agricultural system, it has often been linked to declining aquifer levels, increased concentrations of nitrates in drinking water, and soil quality problems. Reliance in irrigation varies greatly across the NCRWN. In western states like Kansas and Nebraska, irrigation is usually a function of climate. Growing season precipitation is simply not enough to meet the seasonal consumptive water demands of the major agronomic crops commonly grown. In more northern and eastern states, there may be enough water for the crops across the growing season, but coarse textured soils or temporal rainfall variability may leave actively growing crops short of water in the soil profile. There has not previously been a multi-state effort in the North Central region to provide education and outreach to extension staff and irrigation professionals that addresses the water quality and quantity issues that are related to irrigation. There is also an identified need to train new irrigation professionals, as there is a looming wave of faculty and professionals that are going to retire in the near future. The loss of this expertise in the North Central region is at odds with the fact that irrigation continues to expand in the northern and eastern states in the North Central region. Training new faculty and irrigation professionals is a critical need in the region.
Bring together extension staff and irrigation professionals for a regional education and planning meeting that will provide:
Develop and secure funding for a regional research, education and extension projects that will help build a foundation for regional extension programming through The USDA NIFA-AFRI Water for Ag Challenge Area. Give technical assistance providers consistent irrigation training and updates. Close the knowledge gaps about irrigation water management, and assure that future generations have access to abundant, high quality groundwater.
In June 2015 we will convene our two day meeting in central Nebraska. Meeting outcomes will be submitted as part of our NIFA-AFRI Water for Ag Challenge Area grant submission that is due July 16th, 2015.
Extension Irrigation Specialist, University of Minnesota