UI creates drought website

Published online: Feb 19, 2014
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MOSCOW, Idaho—University of Idaho has launched a comprehensive new website with links to new, updated and commonly used resources to help irrigators stretch their water supply and make better planting decisions for a dry season.

UI researchers linked the Idaho Drought Resources site, www.uidaho.edu/extension/drought, to the UI Extension website on Feb. 11 and will continue to add core content. The site has links to scientific studies on water usage specific to livestock, range, potatoes, sugarbeets, cereals, alfalfa, corn, lawn and trees.

Another section on irrigation scheduling includes tables specifying the amount and timing of water application to avoid crop stress. There are also links to external drought resources such as the Idaho Snow Survey, the National Weather Service and reservoir storage diagrams.

Steve Hines, UI Extension educator for Jerome County, led the project, which was started in late fall when a tight storage water outlook became apparent. It will be updated weekly throughout this season.

Key contributors included UI Extension irrigation specialist Howard Neibling, Billy Whitehurst, UI Extension livestock educator for Twin Falls County, UI Extension forage specialist Glenn Shewmaker and UI Extension livestock specialist Wilson Gray.

Hines said timeless data was included from a previous UI drought website, which the researchers discovered when they began their work.

Neibling is working out the bugs of a pair of interactive resources he plans to post soon. His pumping cost calculator enables growers to input their specific circumstances to analyze energy wasted due to worn nozzles, leaks and inefficient pumps—and how quickly they could recoup investments in irrigation improvements. In a survey he conducted two years ago, Neibling learned Idaho growers with hand lines and wheel lines lose a quarter of their water on average to leaks and worn nozzles. His interactive evapotranspiration planner will calculate region-specific water volumes to meet demand for differing crop mixtures.

For Idaho corn growers, Neibling and Hines developed a new guide detailing how to raise the crop under center pivot irrigation. The guide covers topics such as designing center pivots with the right water application capacity, how to minimize runoff and appropriate watering for each stage of corn development. Unlike in Idaho, in most corn regions, Neibling emphasized irrigation isn’t necessary, or merely supplements rainfall.

For his corn guide, Neibling also analyzed Bureau of Reclamation AgriMet data to calculate the minimum amount of water needed to raise corn in specific Idaho growing areas.

“That’s probably the best tool I’ve seen around for irrigating corn in the Pacific Northwest,” Neibling said.

Gray said the outlook for drought has already taken a heavy toll on the livestock industry. Idaho, which had steadily grown its herd during the past two years, has reduced its beef cow numbers by 45,000 head compared with this time last year.

Gray said the site includes information on tax implications of weather-related cattle sales and evaluating options such as early weening and culling. There’s also a link to the Livestock Marketing Information Center in Denver.

Source: www.capitalpress.com