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Novel solutions for conserving water in Utah Agriculture

Background: Prompted by worries about water scarcity from rapid urban growth and weather extremes, agriculture producers in Cedar City have looked to USU Extension to find creative ways to conserve water and increase efficiency.

Objective: A team of USU Extension Specialists and Agents are conducting a study on three Utah alfalfa and corn producing farms with pivot irrigation systems to see if the addition of biochar to the soil (in varying amounts) would result in greater water retention and plant productivity. Typically, pivot irrigation systems spray water from nozzles that are suspended about six feet above the soil surface; this allows for a significant amount of evaporation, especially on hot or windy days. The team is evaluating potential water savings from reduced spray drift and evaporation for (1) spray nozzles that are about 18 inches above the soil and (2) drip tubing dragged behind the pivot discharging water directly on the soil. The team will investigate whether varying levels of biochar in the soil impacts: alfalfa yield, alfalfa quality, or soil water holding capacity. Study results are expected in 2019.

Partners: USU Water Initiative Grant, Matt Yost, Earl Creech, Chad Reid, Darren McAvoy, Niel Allen, and Dean Winward