Irrigation Training Program

Forage Production

  1. Increase understanding of water requirements (peak water use, seasonal water use, critical growth stages, drought sensitivity/tolerance, and water quality requirements) of key forage crops.
  2. Increase water use efficiency and profitability in forage crops production through application of appropriate best management practices.
Key Points:
  1. Crop and variety selection should include consideration of available water supplies and crop water (quantity and quality) requirements.
  2. Alfalfa is well adapted to arid regions, but it requires more water for profitable production than most agricultural crops. Alfalfa can develop a very deep root system. It can tolerate periods of drought stress, but this stress will result in yield loss. Similarly, alfalfa can tolerate some salinity, but poor quality irrigation water will result in yield loss. With efficient irrigation methods and management, alfalfa requires 5-7 acre-inches of water per ton of alfalfa produced. Peak water use can be 0.35” per day (and occasionally as high as 0.5”/day) in the High Plains.
Assess your knowledge:
  1. What is the peak water use of key forage crops in you area? When (growth stage and calendar range) does this occur?
  2. What is the maximum effective root zone depth for the crop? Are there other factors in your field or management program that you would expect to limit this effective root zone depth? What practical significance do these limitations have with respect to your irrigation and nutrient management programs?
  3. Are there water quality (salinity) concerns for forage production on your farm? If so, what are they? How can they be managed?
  4. What irrigation method do you currently use to irrigate forages? What best management practices (BMPs) are you using to optimize water use efficiency? Identify other methods and BMPs that would be applicable to your operation.
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