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CHAPTER 1

INTRODUCTION
Glenn J. Hoffman (University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska) Robert G. Evans (USDA-ARS, Sidney, Montana)
Abstract. This chapter introduces the second edition of Design and Operation of Farm Irrigation Systems. The distribution and development of irrigation in the United States and throughout the world is reviewed. Issues facing irrigated agriculture including environmental concerns, sustainability, and changes in water policy are discussed. The chapter concludes with a discussion of options for future directions and some needs for irrigation research and education. Keywords. Environmental concerns, History, Irrigation, Sustainability, Water policy, Worldwide development.

1.1 OVERVIEW
This monograph updates and complements ASAE Monograph 3, Design and Operation of Farm Irrigation Systems, which was edited by M. E. Jensen and published by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers in 1980. The 1980 monograph has been the most requested and most successful of all ASAE monographs over the intervening years. More than 8500 copies of the first edition have been distributed worldwide. Significant developments and additions to our understanding and knowledge of irrigation along with major changes in the environmental, ecological, sociological, and political scenes attest to the need for a second edition. This monograph provides current research results and state-of-the-art knowledge on all aspects of irrigation on the farm. It is intended to provide design procedures and scientific guidance for the management of water resources and irrigation systems. This edition provides updated material for many of the chapters covered in the first edition. Other chapters are significantly different or completely new. Chapters that are built upon the subjects of the first edition are system selection, soil-water relationships, salinity control, water requirements, drainage systems, land forming, delivery systems, pumps, hydraulics, design of surface systems, design of sprinkler and microirrigation systems, evaluation of performance, and irrigation management. New or substantially different subjects include efficiency and uniformity, environmental considerations, sustainability of irrigation, water table control, chemigation, wastewater and reclaimed irrigation water, and site-specific management. By the number of new

Chapter 1 Introduction

subjects alone, the reader should be convinced of the many new issues in irrigation that need to be addressed today. This monograph should benefit practicing professionals, farmers, researchers, and governing agencies. It provides technical data, design procedures, and management strategies to benefit all who make decisions about the design and operation of farm irrigation systems.

1.2 WORLDWIDE IRRIGATION DEVELOPMENT


At the beginning of a new millennium it is appropriate to review the history of irrigation and its impact on civilization and the global food supply. Irrigation was developed to counter both short-term and long-term drought on crop production in arid and semiarid areas whenever a reliable supplemental water supply was nearby. The prudent use of water enables the consistent production of food, fiber, and landscaping at levels and in locations where it would not otherwise be possible. An outstanding account of the history of irrigation has been given by Postel (1999), and much of the following historical discussion has been extracted from her writings. It is important to note the impact irrigation has had on civilization from its earliest beginnings to the present. Historians, through archeological evidence, credit early irrigation with the assurance of dependable food supplies; thereby allowing some members of the society to pursue activities other than hunting, nomadic grazing, or farming. Among the accomplishments of these early irrigation-based societies are writing, the wheel, water-lifting devices, yokes for draft animals, sailboats, palaces, pyramids, temples, ceramics, fine textiles, handicrafts, the Hammurabi code of law, fired bricks, cities, and various forms of accounting, taxation, management, and government. 1.2.1 Historical Development Six thousand years ago, settlers in Mesopotamia (which is now Iraq, and part of what is referred to as the Fertile Crescent) dug ditches and diverted water to their fields from the Euphrates River and initiated the practice of irrigation. Irrigation transformed both the land and society like no other previous activity by producing a dependable food supply, frequently so abundant that many people were able to pursue non-farm activities. The food surpluses had to be stored and distributed, which led to new forms of centralized management. This need for management led to stratified societies and centralized control. With some of the populace not needed in farming, historians credit these early settlers, called Sumerians, with the development of writing and the wheel as well as the creation of sailboats, water-lifting devices, and yokes for harnessing animals. With time, as the range of activities expanded, these early societies increased in population, which led to the first true cities. The Sumerians were followed by other irrigation-based civilizations in Mesopotamia. Among these were the Babylonians, who are renowned for building magnificent palaces and developing Hammurabis historic code of law which dealt, in part, with irrigation (Postel, 2000). Irrigated agriculture endured in Mesopotamia through several civilizations. Archeological evidence, however, indicates that around 2400 B.C. soil salination had reached detrimental levels. In those early civilizations, wheat was the preferred cereal for food, and it was grown in preference to barley. Wheat, however, is less salt tolerant than barley. Over time wheats share of the harvest dropped to less than two percent in some areas and barley production dominated, and by 1700 B.C. wheat was no longer cultivated. By then, even barley yields were declining. This archeological evidence

Design and Operation of Farm Irrigation Systems

has led historians to blame salination as the major contributor to the decline of civilization in the Fertile Crescent of present-day Iraq. To this day, the southern portions of the Fertile Crescent have never fully recovered from the demise caused by salinity. Elsewhere in the world, early societies dependent upon irrigation arose in the Indus River Valley in Pakistan, the Yellow River basin of China, and the Nile River Valley of Egypt. Much later, irrigation-based cultures developed in the western hemisphere. Central Mexico, coastal Peru, and the American Southwest each saw the rise and fall of an advanced society built on irrigated agriculture. The early civilization along the Indus River about 3500 B.C. also depended on irrigation. The complex, hierarchical society that developed by about 2300 B.C. lasted less than 500 years. Although conquest by invaders was probably the direct cause of the collapse of this society, instability caused by salination, siltation, flooding, and possibly climate change also contributed to its demise. Ancient Chinese efforts to control and use the water resources of the Yellow River in the north China plain began about 4000 years ago. The Yellow, however, proved to be a difficult river to tame. It emerges from the Loess Plateau carrying some 1.4 billion Mg of silt each year, making channel alterations and flooding a common occurrence. The Yellow has breached its dikes more than 1500 times over the last two millennia. Heavy silt deposits have elevated the river above its surrounding plain necessitating the continual raising and reinforcing of dikes to prevent flooding. Ultimately a breach of the dike occurs and a change in the course of the river results. The river has changed course about once every century. These unpredictable shifts have been devastating to irrigated agriculture and human settlement. In sharp contrast to the other early civilizations built upon irrigation in the eastern hemisphere, the Egyptian civilization in the Nile River Valley has endured for 5000 years without interruption. Egypts civilization has survived warfare and conquests and widespread disease. Only in recent times has the sustainability of Egyptian agriculture come into question. In response to a 20-fold increase in population over the last two centuries, Egypt replaced its time-tested agriculture based on the Niles natural flow rhythms with more intensified irrigation and flood management that requires complete control of the river. The natural flow rhythm of the Nile was once dominated by an annual flood that was relatively benign, predictable, and timely. With nearly flawless predictability the river rose in southern Egypt in early July and reached flood stage in the vicinity of Aswan by mid-August. The flood continued to surge northward and reached the northern end of the valley by the end of September. At its peak, the flood covered the floodplain to a depth of 1.5 meters. By late November most of the valley was drained. Egyptian farmers then had well-watered fields that had been fertilized by the rich silt carried from Ethiopia and deposited across the floodplain. Crops were then planted as the mild winter began and harvested in the spring just in time for the cycle to repeat. Egyptian irrigators did not experience many of the troublesome problems of other early civilizations. Fertility was renewed each year by the silt-laden floodwater and the inundation prior to planting pushed whatever salts had accumulated down below the root zone. In contrast to other ancient civilizations, early Egyptian society did not centrally manage irrigation works. Irrigation was carried out on a local rather than a regional or national scale. Despite the existence of many civil and criminal codes in ancient Egypt, no evidence exists of written water law. Apparently, water management was

Chapter 1 Introduction

neither complex nor contentious, and oral traditions of common law withstood all tests over a considerable length of time. The many political disruptions at the state level, which included numerous conquests, did not greatly impact the systems operation or maintenance, probably because the politicians had no control over the flows of the Nile. Though later in time and smaller in size, the irrigation-based civilizations that developed in the western hemisphere also shaped cultural developments. The geographic cradle of civilization in the west was Central America. Settled villages evolved about 2000 B.C., when the productivity of domesticated corn reached a level that could support stable communities. Around 300 B.C., canals were used for irrigation throughout the Tehuacan Valley southeast of Mexico City. Along the Peruvian coast, an irrigated crop could be grown in four months leaving time to construct pyramids and temples and to develop fine textiles, ceramics and handicrafts. A centralized bureaucracy was formed to manage the large irrigation system and to control the distribution of water. In North America, the Hohokam culture thrived for more than 1000 years along the Gila and Salt rivers of south central Arizona but then the culture disappeared suddenly around 1400 A.D., most likely due to prolonged severe drought. Archeologists have documented more than 500 km of main irrigation canals, with many of them linked in networks. In the 16th century, Leonardo da Vinci studied the Amo watershed in northern Italy. His studies led to a better understanding of the relationship between a rivers catchment area and its flow. This study helped establish the fundamentals of hydrology and river basin management (Newson, 1992). Several hundred years passed before the principles of hydraulics and mechanized water control technologies were developed that together transformed irrigation from an art to a science. 1.2.2 Recent Developments and Trends Over many centuries, irrigated lands have become essential to the worlds food supply. These lands now constitute approximately 20% of the worlds total cultivated farmland but produce about 40% of the food and fiber. Irrigated agricultural activities also provide considerable food and foraging areas for migratory and local birds as well as other wildlife. In short, irrigation underpins our modern world society and lifestyles. In 1800, the worldwide irrigated area totaled about 8 million ha. The irrigated area increased five-fold during the 19th century, mainly because during the latter half of the century much of the scientific and technical foundation for irrigation was developed. In the 20th century, global irrigation grew from 40 to more than 270 million ha, an almost seven-fold increase (Figure 1.1). Currently India and China, with nearly the same amount of irrigated cropland (57 and 55 million ha, respectively), together account for about 40% of the worlds irrigated land. Ten countries collectively account for two-thirds of the world total (Table 1.1). It is estimated that from 36% to 47% of the worlds food is produced by irrigated production (Gleick, 1998; Postel, 1999). The total amount of irrigated land in a country depends upon its size, arable cultivated land, and climatic conditions. Thus, it is interesting to note the proportion of each countrys arable land that is irrigated. The percent of arable land that is irrigated within a country and by continent is given in Table 1.1. More than half of the arable land is under irrigation in Pakistan, Iraq, Japan, Bangladesh, and Iran; nearly or all of

Design and Operation of Farm Irrigation Systems


300

250

Millions of Hectares

200

150

100

50

0 1800 1825 1850 1875 1900 Years 1925 1950 1975 2000

Figure 1.1. Increase in irrigated area worldwide from 1800 to 2000 (adapted from Postel, 1999, and FAOSTAT, 2005).

the arable land in Uzbekistan and Egypt is irrigated. Thirty-eight percent of all the arable land in Asia is irrigated. Brazil has seen rapid growth in recent years. In contrast, in Africa, a continent desperate for food, only 7% of the arable land is irrigated. On average, irrigation is practiced on 20% of the arable land in the world (Table 1.1). Worldwide irrigated agriculture increased significantly during the second half of the 20th century with large government investments, major financial support from international donors and lenders, and the spread of improved pumping technologies. This period coincided with numerous, large-scale, government-sponsored surface water irrigation projects in many countries and the proliferation of both private and public groundwater wells in others. In China, waterworks were constructed on major Huai, Hai, and Yellow River basins, mostly for rice and small grain production. By 1990, more than 4 million ha were irrigated from the Yellow River. With improved pumping and well-drilling technologies and the availability of electricity, China turned to groundwater to irrigate the North China Plain. The number of wells increased from 110,000 in 1961 to more than 2 million in the mid-1980s (Postel, 1999). Likewise, irrigation by tubewells increased dramatically in India and Pakistan during the last half of the 20th century. Irrigation from tubewells expanded from 100,000 ha in 1961 to 11.3 million ha in 1985 (World Bank, 1991). In this same time period, canal building for surface irrigation by the Indian government doubled the surface irrigated area. In the Indus River basin, two large storage dams and corresponding construction of irrigation canals transformed the basin into the worlds largest contiguous irrigation network, covering 14 million ha.

Chapter 1 Introduction

Table 1.1. Irrigated areas in the top 25 countries, by continents, and in the world in 2002 (adapted from FAOSTAT, 2005). These totals are estimates because definitions of irrigated land vary by country. Arable Land Irrigated Irrigated Area Region of the World (percent) (million hectares) Country Egypt 100 3.4 Uzbekistan 96 4.3 Pakistan 83 17.9 Iraq 60 3.5 Japan 59 2.6 Bangladesh 58 4.6 Iran 50 7.5 Viet Nam 45 3.0 China 38 54.9 India 35 57.2 Italy 34 2.8 Romania 33 3.1 Thailand 31 5.0 Afghanistan 30 2.4 Spain 28 3.8 Mexico 25 6.3 Indonesia 23 4.8 Turkey 20 5.2 France 14 2.6 United States 13 22.5 Kazakhstan 11 2.4 Ukraine 7 2.3 Brazil 5 2.9 Australia 5 2.5 Russia 4 4.6 Continent Asia 38 193.9 North & Central America 12 31.4 Europe 9 25.2 South America 9 10.5 Africa 7 12.9 Oceania 6 2.8 World 20 276.7

In the former Soviet Union, leaders expanded irrigation in areas with otherwise favorable climatic conditions that lacked adequate rainfall for crop production. They concentrated on two key areasthe Central Asian republics, which accounted for about 40% of the Soviet irrigated area before the nations breakup, and the southeastern European region, including parts of Russia and Ukraine. With irrigation water drawn from the rivers feeding into the Aral Sea, central Asia became a major cotton growing region. However, the Aral Sea is a small fraction of its previous size because

Design and Operation of Farm Irrigation Systems

of declining inflows due to greatly increased upstream diversions for irrigation. While large scale irrigation in southeastern Europe protected this important grain-producing region from drought there has been severe damage to the regions natural ecosystems. Presently, chronic scarcity of water is experienced or expected in large parts of Africa and the Middle East, the northern part of China, the former Soviet Union and the Central Asian republics, parts of India and Mexico, the western part of the U.S., and northeast Brazil. A region is said to be water stressed when its renewable water supplies drop below about 1700 cubic meters per capita (Gleick, 1998; Postel, 1999). With supplies below this level, it becomes difficult for a country to mobilize enough water to satisfy all the food, household, and industrial needs of its population. For example, about 1000 Megagrams (Mg) of water are required to produce 1 Mg of grain. With grain being the staple of the human diet, water-stressed countries import grain to satisfy food requirements and reserve their water for other uses. Collectively, 32 of the 34 water-stressed countries in Africa and Asia import about 50 million Mg of grain annually, about a quarter of the total traded internationally (Postel, 2000). During the first quarter of the 21st century, the global irrigation base is expected to grow at less than 1% a year, down from the annual growth rate of more than 3% for the last half of the 20th century. This has largely been the result of diminishing water supplies and increased demands from other sectors. In most areas, the best and easiest sites are already developed. A 1995 study by the World Bank reported that irrigation development costs on more than 190 of their funded projects averaged about $4,800 per hectare (Jones, 1995).

1.3 IRRIGATION DEVELOPMENT IN THE UNITED STATES


Irrigation has been practiced in the Southwest region of the U.S. for two millennia. Today, irrigation is practiced in every state of the union with the total irrigated agricultural cropland area exceeding 21 million ha (21.3 million ha using the USDA-NASS, 2004, estimate; 22.5 million ha using a different methodology, as listed in Table 1.1) with a farm gate value exceeding $47 billion per year. This represents 49% of the market value of all crops from 18% of all harvested U.S. croplands. Nationally, per hectare sales from harvested irrigated lands average more than 4.5 times the sales from nonirrigated land (Gollehon, 2002). However, this is a somewhat misleading figure because much higher input, labor, and equipment costs often result in net returns similar to that for rainfed or dryland producers, especially for field crops. This is usually not the case for tree and vine crops, vegetables, and other highvalue crops. It is estimated that there are also approximately 16.4 ( 3.6) million ha of managed turf in the U.S. (Milesi et al., 2005) that is not included in any of the estimates of cropland referenced in this chapter (or elsewhere). Turfgrass areas include lawns, airports, institutional facilities, military bases, schools, parks, golf courses, athletic fields, churches, cemeteries, etc. These areas are expected to continue growing, and much of this land is irrigated to some degree, almost totally with sprinklers. The large area of turfgrass makes it the largest irrigated crop in the U.S. Milesi et al. (2005) estimated that irrigated turfgrass amounted to three to four times the area of irrigated corn (about 4.3 million ha), the largest irrigated agricultural crop. Applied water and other inputs are high because turf is generally managed for appearance rather than profitability. The amount of irrigated turfgrass is extremely significant because it indicates that ur-

Chapter 1 Introduction

ban irrigators have a large potential for water and energy savings and pollution abatement that is comparable to irrigated agriculture. Furthermore, the political and economic base clearly lies with the urban users and they will have a major voice in future land use and water policy issues. Thus, including turf, there is a total of about 37 million ha of irrigated land in the US. The impact of turfgrass is quite significant because urban users are often competing for the same water supplies, especially in the 17 western states (not including Hawaii and Alaska) that contain about 30% of the total turf area in the U.S. In addition, urbanization often expands on to irrigated agricultural lands, and much of the associated water is often lost to agriculture as it is then used for urban landscapes. 1.3.1 Historical Development of Irrigation in the U.S. Irrigation by indigenous people of the Southwest is known to have existed as early as 100 B.C. Early irrigation was practiced in the Salt River Valley, on the Colorado Plateau, and along several watercourses elsewhere in the West. Corn, beans, squash, milo, peaches, and other crops were grown through an intricate network of ditches and canals. Some of the early immigrants arriving in North America, particularly from the Mediterranean area, brought with them a heritage of irrigation as part of farming. For example, Spanish colonists irrigated extensively at the missions established along the Pacific Coast beginning in the 1760s. In the mid-1800s, irrigation development in the U.S. expanded along with the settlement of the West. Most of the early projects were accomplished by private enterprise. In 1847, an advance party of Mormons settled in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah and began diverting water to grow potatoes. Early Mormon activities set the stage for other private irrigation ventures, and by about 1875, the center for irrigation innovation and development had shifted to Colorado and California. By 1890, irrigation was practiced on more than 400,000 ha in California, 350,000 ha in Colorado, and more than 100,000 ha in Utah. About this time, irrigation became a central theme of the federal governments strategy to encourage settlement of the West. The Desert Land Act of 1877 and the Carey Act of 1894 were intended to stimulate private and state development of irrigated land. The federal government became involved in irrigation development with the passage of the Reclamation Act of 1902. The Bureau of Reclamation formed by this act provided engineering expertise and financial capital to develop large irrigation projects throughout the West. The irrigated area in the U.S. increased from about 1 million ha in the 1880s to about 8 million ha by the middle of the 20th century. At this time, the major irrigated regions were the Southwest (2.2 million ha), the Mountain States (2.5 million ha), and the Pacific Northwest (1.4 million ha) (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1983). The drought years of the 1950s stimulated irrigation development in the southern Great Plains. Then, with the advent of center pivot sprinkler irrigation systems and with groundwater readily available, irrigation expanded rapidly in the central Great Plains during the 1960s and 1970s. During the same time period, irrigation increased markedly in the southeastern states. The total irrigated area declined in the 1980s because of depressed farm commodity prices, increased energy costs, and declining water resources. In the 1990s the total irrigated area recovered and data for 2003 shows the total irrigated area to be about 21.3 million ha (USDA-NASS, 2004) Recent growth in U.S. irrigation has been mostly in the southeastern areas of the country, primarily in the Mississippi River delta. The 1980s and 1990s saw growth in

Design and Operation of Farm Irrigation Systems

the lower Mississippi River areas of Missouri, Mississippi, and Louisiana; the 1960s and 1970s had significant growth in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Arkansas. Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri added about 1.2 million ha of irrigated land since 1980. This essentially doubled irrigation in these states (USDA-NASS, 2004). 1.3.2 Current Status of U.S. Irrigation The official survey of agricultural irrigation in the U.S. is typically taken as part of the U.S. Census of Agriculture. The most recent results are in the 2003 USDA Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey as part of the 2002 Census of Agriculture (USDA-NASS, 2004). The 2002 Census of Agriculture reported 21.3 million ha of irrigated land. The USGS (Hutson et al., 2004) estimated about 25 million ha of total irrigated farmland in the U.S. in 2000. The differences between the two values are due to different estimating methodologies. Data reported in the figures and tables in this section are from the 2002 Census. The approximate agricultural cropland area irrigated in each state is indicated in Figure 1.2. Except for Iowa and North Dakota, the states west of the Mississippi River all have in excess of 100,000 ha of irrigated land. In comparison, only seven states east of the Mississippi had more that 100,000 ha of irrigation. Other interesting comparisons can be made from the U.S. agricultural census data. The source of water for farm irrigation is summarized in the 2003 survey and indicates that 26% of the water used for irrigation comes from surface sources off the farm, while about 60% of the irrigation water comes from groundwater delivered from wells, and only 14% comes from on-farm surface sources (Table 1.2). Nationally, thermoelectric power accounts for 48%, irrigation 34%, and municipal and industrial uses 16%, of all water withdrawn in the U.S. from both fresh and saltwater sources (Hutson et al., 2004). However, irrigation is the largest user of freshwater supplies, especially in the arid west, accounting for about 40% of the total U.S. freshwater withdrawals from both surface and subsurface supplies. The methods of irrigation have changed over time. From early diversions of water from streams by ditches dug by hand, irrigation technology has developed to include

Figure 1.2. Approximate irrigated farm land in the U.S. in 2003 by state (adapted from USDA-NASS, 2004).

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Chapter 1 Introduction

Table 1.2. Amount of water used from various sources for U.S. farm irrigation in 2003 (adapted from USDA-NASS, 2004). Area Volume Average Irrigated Applied Depth Applied Water Source (hectares) (km3) (cm) Wells 13,094,000 53.6 41 On-farm surface water 2,946,000 14.5 49 Off-farm surface water 5,614,000 39.0 69 U.S. total 21,654,000[a] 107.1 49
[a]

Sum of land irrigated exceeds actual U.S. total (21,300,000 hectares) because some land receives water from more than one source.

massive reservoirs and networks of canals to satisfy gravity irrigation systems, manually and mechanically moved sprinkler systems, and a variety of low-flow systems referred to as microirrigation. Originally, irrigation was accomplished by methods utilizing gravity to distribute and apply water. In the 20th century, sprinkler technology along with low-cost aluminum and later PVC pipe was developed, and currently more land is irrigated by sprinklers than by gravity. Similarly, low-flow microirrigation is based on plastic technologies evolved during the last quarter of the 20th century and is now used on about 5% of the irrigated area in the U.S. (USDA-NASS, 2004), but on less than 1% worldwide. Table 1.3 summarizes the amount of land irrigated by the various irrigation methods. In 2003, 50.5% of the area being irrigated was with sprinklers, 43.4% by gravity methods, 5.6% by microirrigation, and 0.5% by subirrigation. Of the 10.9 million ha irrigated by sprinklers, 79% of this area utilized center pivots, which amounts to about 40% of all the land irrigated in the U.S. To realize energy savings through lowpressure applications, 90% of center pivots reported in the 2002 Census use water pressures below 400 kPa. Furrow irrigation is practiced on 51% of the land using gravity systems, while border or basin methods are utilized on 38% of the surface irrigated lands. The average depth of irrigation water applied per unit land area can also be calculated from the Census results. Nationwide, an average depth of 49 cm of irrigation water is applied annually to irrigated lands in the U.S. (Table 1.2). For land irrigated by pumped groundwater from wells, an average depth of only 41 cm of irrigation water is applied each year. In comparison, an average depth of 69 cm of water is applied when the supply is surface water from off the farm. The USGS reported that more than 195 billion cubic meters of water were diverted from off-farm surface sources annually with an estimated average application depth of about 75 cm in 2000 (Hutson et al., 2004). This is slightly higher than the 2002 Census of Agriculture estimates. The differences in application depth estimates between the USGS and Census of Agriculture reports are probably caused by the USGS analysis being more indicative of gravity systems supplied from off-farm surface water sources. These tend to apply more water than other irrigation methods. The comparisons are also biased by how water source was considered. Center pivots are generally more efficient than gravity methods and are the most prevalent irrigation method in the subhumid regions of the Great Plains and humid areas in the east which use well water to supplement precipitation. In contrast, gravity irrigation is dominant where the source of water is off-farm and where the climate is generally more arid, as in the Western States.

Design and Operation of Farm Irrigation Systems

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Table 1.3 . Comparison of irrigation methods in the U.S. in 2003 (adapted from 2002 Census of Agriculture, USDA-NASS, 2004). Irrigated Area Irrigation Method (ha) % of Total Gravity systems Furrow 4,746,000 Border/basin 3,582,000 Uncontrolled flooding 930,000 Other 104,000 U.S. total, gravity systems 9,362,000 43.4 Sprinkler systems Center pivot, pressures above 400 kPa 785,000 Center pivot, pressures 200 to 400 kPa 3,910,000 Center pivot, pressures below 200 kPa 3,926,000 Linear move 139,000 Side roll, wheel move, or other mechanized move 739,000 Traveler or big gun 256,000 Hand move 674,000 Solid set and permanent 477,000 U.S. total, sprinkler systems 10,906,000 50.5 Microirrigation systems Surface drip 574,000 Subsurface drip 164,000 Microsprinklers 472,000 U.S. total, microirrigation systems 1,210,000 5.6 Subirrigation 113,000 0.5 Total U.S. irrigation[a] 21,590,000
[a]

The U.S. total irrigated area is larger than the 21.3 million ha quoted previously because more than one irrigation method may be used on some lands.

1.3.3 Trends in U.S. Irrigation The irrigated agricultural area in the U.S. from 1939 to 2003, based on national census data, is given in Figure 1.3. Total irrigated area increased at an average rate of 3.6% during the last six decades of the 20th century. The rate of increase is relatively steady except for the sudden increase in the 1970s followed by a decline in the 1980s. The surge in irrigated area in the 1970s can be attributed to the deployment of center pivot systems and the installation of systems, particularly in the southeast, to augment rainfall. The decline during the 1980s was created by a combination of depressed farm commodity prices, increased energy costs, declining water resources, and some apparent changes in statistical procedures in determining irrigated areas. What is interesting is the return to a positive growth rate of irrigated land during the early 1990s, but a slight decline again during the last 5 years of census data (1997-2002). This slight decline is expected to continue. It is also expected that the conversion from surface irrigation methods to self-propelled (center pivots and linear move) and microirrigation technologies will increase, but will have little effect on total irrigated acres.

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25 20 15 10 5 0
1935 1954 1974 1992

Millions of Hectares

Years

Figure 1.3. The total agricultural irrigated area in the U.S. from 1939 to 2002 (adapted from U.S. Department of Commerce, 1978, and 2002 Census of Agriculture, USDA-NASS, 2004).

1.4 ISSUES FACING IRRIGATED AGRICULTURE


Irrigation is the largest single consumer of water on the planet, accounting for about 80% of the total freshwater consumed and about two thirds of the total diverted for human uses, and it is responsible for more than 40% of all agricultural production. Irrigation has permanently changed the social fabric of many regions around the world. It has provided major economic development of many semiarid and arid areas, stabilizing rural communities, increasing income, and providing new opportunities for economic advancement to many. However, the worlds supply of freshwater is basically constant, and the amounts allocated to irrigated production will undoubtedly decrease substantially because of increased consumption by non-agricultural users. The development of irrigation early in the 20th century in the U.S. was created by an enormous level of governmental involvement, and despite the major contributions to a stable and bountiful food supply, the commitment toward agriculture worldwide, and particularly in the U.S., has diminished in recent years. Many members of society exhibit ambivalent feelings toward irrigated agriculture. This phenomenal development has not been without controversy and not without problems or critics. Opposition to irrigation has two primary themes. First, irrigation is increasingly coming into direct competition with other water uses for scarce water resources. There are escalating demands from other water user sectors, including potable water, recreation, and tourism, that are looking to agriculture to supply the needed water by conservation and other measures (Clemmens and Allen, 2005). Much of this development in the Western U.S. has occurred during a long term, uncharacteristic, wet period causing unrealistic expectations and over-allocations of water supply. Secondly, irrigated agriculture (although not alone) can have negative environmental impacts on water and soil quality over broad areas. Irrigation can degrade water quality, erode soils, reduce groundwater levels, deplete stream flow, and alter hydrologic regimes leading to unhealthy trends in aquatic and riparian ecosystems. The nations

Design and Operation of Farm Irrigation Systems

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commitment to minimize such environmental issues continues to increase and irrigated agriculture will receive more and more pressure to change existing practices to address these concerns. It is expected that the current commodity surpluses will not last in the face of increasing population coupled with the worldwide decrease in ocean fisheries. These factors will place large worldwide demands on agriculture to increase the global production of animal/fish protein, food, fiber, and livestock feed. Agriculture will also be asked to help supplement the worlds ever-increasing energy needs by producing more bio-based fuels, lubricants, and chemical plant feedstocks that are now provided by the petrochemical industry. Irrigated agriculture, including greatly expanded intensive greenhouse culture, is expected to provide more than 70% of this increased future food and fiber demand worldwide in the next 25 to 50 years. Aquaculture will also expand significantly, to offset the worldwide decline in fish catches, but the net amount of fish protein will probably remain about the same. However, most of the potential irrigation development has already occurred, and, in fact, productivity of the irrigated land base around the world is declining due to soil salination, waterlogging, and soil erosion. Despite phenomenal advancements in crop breeding, genetic engineering, and other technologies, it is not known where or how all of this increased productivity, needed to satisfy the increasing population, will occur. Further stresses are being imposed on existing water resources by endangered species regulations, international and interstate agreements on water allocations, energy availability, and a suffering agricultural economy. Declining water tables in many regions due to excessive pumping for irrigation are also a major concern. Temporary and long-term water transfers between users, inter-basin diversions, and emerging economic water markets are also confounding the issues. Water and land resources and their many competing uses must be considered in a regional and international framework. Withdrawals from a river deplete instream flows that may have a large impact on downstream water users (municipalities, industries, natural areas and wildlife, agriculture, livestock operations, recreation, navigation, tourism, and hydropower production). Reservoir releases for power often conflict with other competing demands for water, including irrigation. Withdrawals from aquifers by wells can negatively affect groundwater levels over large areas and reduce recharge to streams and other water bodies. Global climate change may be further exacerbating the problems through changing temperatures and probably by altering annual precipitation amounts and regional rainfall distribution patterns. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2001) concluded that a global warming attributable to human activity is now evident in the historic record. Global mean surface temperature relative to 1990 is expected to increase by about 2C by 2100. If global warming occurs, it is certain to have a major impact on water supplies, and the increased variability in precipitation will provide major challenges for the agricultural sector. A warmer climate would accelerate the hydrologic cycle, increasing both the global rates of precipitation and evapotranspiration (ET). Timing of precipitation as well as runoff from mountain snowmelt may be different from historical norms. There is evidence that some of these changes are already occurring, but regional impacts are uncertain at best. The hydrologic uncertainties are compounded because relatively small changes in precipitation and temperature can have sizable effects on the volume and timing of runoff as well as ET, especially in

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Chapter 1 Introduction

arid and semiarid areas. In short, the prospect of global warming introduces major new uncertainties and challenges for irrigators and society as a whole. All of these factors have created a water demand crisis that only continues to worsen. Consequently, there is an urgent need to improve the management of irrigation worldwide to conserve water, soil, and energy as well as provide food, fiber and other critical needs. Adjustments will have to be made by all, but the major expectations will likely be focused around agriculture, especially irrigated production in arid areas. Equitable solutions to these issues must include irrigated agriculture as well as all of the other users in determining future programs and directions. Managing and developing infrastructure and policies for water security to equitably satisfy the demands of all users of this limited resource will be a difficult and lengthy task. 1.4.1 Environmental Concerns The major environmental issues relevant to irrigation are those concerned with the protection and management of water resources and water quality. During the past few decades, society has become increasingly conscious of and concerned about the impacts of irrigated agriculture on environmental quality. The relative significance of environmental issues varies among regions of the country, but the types of issues confronting irrigation generally are the same. However, with few exceptions, environmental laws and policies have not addressed irrigation-related concerns. Irrigated agriculture has had profound positive and negative impacts on the environment. Irrigation has contributed to losses and changes of aquatic and riparian habitats and the decline of some native species dependent on those habitats (Wilcove and Bean, 1994). Irrigation runoff is a significant source for potential pollutants in surface waters (National Research Council, 1989). Federal and state responses to environmental concerns regarding irrigated agriculture include efforts to control soil salination and agricultural nonpoint sources of water pollution, policies to protect stream flows and wetlands, and restrictions on the application of pesticides. Environmental issues related to instream flow and wetland ecosystems arise wherever water is withdrawn for irrigation. Dams and diversions for surface water supplies reduce stream flows, altering the natural hydrograph and changing water temperature and flow regimes. These changes may degrade fish spawning and rearing habitats. The draining of wetlands for irrigated agriculture impacts waterfowl and other aquatic species that use these habitats. As an example, 92% of the historic wetland areas in the San Joaquin Valley of California have been converted to irrigated lands (San Joaquin Valley Drainage Program, 1990). Large-scale water resource development projects including irrigation, flood control, recreation, hydropower, and navigation have also altered aquatic and riparian habitat conditions of the Platte, Colorado, Columbia, and Snake rivers. Irrigation development has greatly increased wetland areas in many arid areas. This is generally perceived as a social benefit because of increased land for migrating and non-migratory birds, wildlife, and recreational activities. Streamflows tend to be stabilized due to buffering by increased subsurface return flows, thereby enhancing recreation, fisheries, and waterfowl habitat over pre-irrigation conditions. However, efforts to improve irrigation efficiency may lead to a decrease in these artificially induced habitats because of reduced return flows to the area, thus leading to additional controversy with recreational interests, fishery and wildlife groups, and regulators.

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It should also be mentioned that urbanization is creating large pollution loads on freshwater supplies and estuaries. The amount of pollution in the worlds waterways is increasing while total water supply is decreasing due to increasing evaporation due to more intensive use. Urban populations are concentrated in coastal areas where treated and untreated sewage waters are discharged into the seas where the water is no longer available for reuse by agriculture and other uses, thereby contributing disproportionably to water scarcity. Desalination of seawater is an option in these areas but this also raises significant environmental concerns related to salt disposal (Seckler and Amarasinghe, 2000). 1.4.2 Sustainability of Irrigation Sustainability is a broad concept with many different meanings and connotations. Some people define it solely in terms of environmental factors, such as soil and water salinity, soil erosion, agrochemical use, and water pollution, that change the wildlife and riparian ecologies. Others view sustainability only in terms of economics and the continued agronomic production of food and fiber and thus include commodity prices, infrastructure development, equipment costs, pest control, and energy. By either definition, irrigated agriculture is not in fact economically or environmentally sustainable over the long term using existing technologies and policies. Sustainability is an important concept, because irrigation underpins our modern world society and lifestyles by providing at least 40% of our total food and fiber supply. In reality, society cannot afford and will not allow the loss of this tremendous asset. Despite the current problems and negative perceptions in many sectors of society, it is certain that irrigation will continue to be a necessary and important component of the worlds well-being and growth. Agricultural water security is obviously a major part of sustaining irrigated agriculture. It is a term that is used to describe the need to maintain adequate water supplies to sustain the food and fiber needs of the expanding world population. Factors that may impact water security include competition for water, environmental concerns, continued urbanization, government policy, and the globalization of the economy. One of the biggest threats to the sustainability of irrigated agriculture is salinity. Surface and groundwaters contain dissolved salts that are picked up as the water moves through various geologic formations and soils. When plants extract water from the soil for transpiration almost all of the salts in the soil water solution are left behind. Evaporation from the soil surface also deposits salts. (Irrigation without salinity problems occurs in more humid regions such as the irrigated rice culture areas in Asia, where it has been practiced for thousands of years, and also where the timing and amount of rainfall combined with good natural drainage are sufficient to leach salts from the system.) Excess accumulation of salts in the plant root zone can cause large yield reductions or even total crop failure, and inability to remove these salts will make agriculture unsustainable. Soil salination was probably the primary reason for the failure of many ancient societies in irrigated arid areas (see Section 1.2.1 above). Presently, about 30% of the land in the conterminous U.S. has a moderate to severe potential for salinity problems (Tanji, 1990). Many areas in the West, such as the Colorado River Basin, the northern Great Plains, and Californias San Joaquin and Imperial valleys, suffer salinity problems, as do large irrigated areas in India, Pakistan, and elsewhere around the world.

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Chapter 1 Introduction

Improved irrigation efficiencies in arid areas often require additional water for leaching salts brought in with the irrigation water, which can cause a salinity concentration increase in the groundwater. Irrigation-induced soil salination can be avoided by providing adequate drainage and appropriate water management, but drainage is expensive and can degrade environmental water quality. In closed basins drainage from irrigated areas can render the water terminus biologically uninhabitable, as occurred in the Salton Sea in southern California. The Great Salt Lake in Utah is another drainage catchment terminus that was naturally uninhabitable and is being further degraded by urban and agricultural water users. Subsurface drainage and surface return flows from irrigation are sources for chemical and salt pollution in rivers, streams, lakes, and estuaries. Pollutants mobilized and transported by irrigation return flows and drainage into streams and man-made wetlands include trace elements (e.g. selenium, boron, and molybdenum), nitrogen, and salts, as well as pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals. In sufficient concentrations, these pollutants may be detrimental to wildlife and birds, as was the case with Kesterson Reservoir in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Field drainage systems are an essential part of controlling salination of agricultural lands due to irrigation activities. Desalination or other costly types of treatment of some drainage waters may be required to overcome these obstacles; however, disposal of these effluents may also be a problem. Human and environmental health implications from reuse of degraded water must also be examined. Thus, the real question facing the world today is how to make irrigation sustainable, both environmentally and economically. The sustainability of irrigation depends on societys ability to find ways to use this technology so that important benefits continue to be provided, but with less troublesome social, environmental, and economic consequences. Society will need to improve agricultural productivity, change institutional structures, modify water policies, improve delivery and on-farm systems, improve management of degraded soils, enhance water reuse, improve crop water management, and address rising energy prices. Greatly increased investments in irrigation infrastructure and economic incentives will be required throughout the world to enable these required increases in productivity that permit sustainable irrigated production while addressing the changes in the priorities for water use. A recent USDA agricultural water security listening session (Dobrowolski and ONeill, 2005; ONeill and Dobrowolski, 2005) developed a list of research and action areas over the next several years for maximizing the efficiency of water use by farmers, ranchers, and communities. These water issues included: enhancing supplies with new storage facilities; expanding existing infrastructure; funding for water reclamation and reuse; lowering water consumption by rural and urban users with new technologies; developing new technologies and systems for recycling and reusing degraded water; providing risk assessment and management for water scarcity; determining sociological and economic impacts of conservation technologies; evaluating the impacts of environmental degradation and subsidies for water and crops;

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determining the role of physical and paper water banks and progressive water rate structures and other market-based or incentive mechanisms; applying biotechnological improvements in water use efficiency; measuring the consequences of water conservation and reuse; responding to public health and environmental concerns of reused water and water treatment strategies to improve return flows from agriculture; and expanding decision making tools for water in agricultural, rural, and urbanizing watersheds including forecasting supply and shortage. 1.4.3 Productivity Challenges The formidable pressures on water resources make it certain that water will be the major natural resource issue of the 21st century (Seckler and Amarasinghe, 2000). There will be large economic and social pressures to reduce irrigation water use. This means that productivity per unit of water consumed must be much higher than current values to meet the high future demands for food, fiber, livestock feed, and biological alternatives to petroleum products. This is a major shift from the current emphasis on maximizing yield per unit area, and it will require a significant re-thinking of how and why irrigation is practiced. There may be small pockets of future growth, but the worlds irrigable land base is essentially developed. Some irrigated areas are actually declining in size and productivity due to waterlogging and soil salination, urban encroachment, soil erosion, and declining water tables. Combining a fully exploited land base with the growing competition for existing freshwater supplies along with the needs for increased agricultural production and the concurrent need for energy conservation will require that irrigators substantially increase efficiency and productivity per unit of water consumed. Postel (1999) estimated that water use efficiencies across the world were only about 40%, indicating that there are large opportunities for improvement. This applies to both agricultural and urban crop production (i.e., turfgrass). The greatest potential may be in developing countries where improved water management strategies and practices have the largest potential to increase production. Productivity of a specific crop is a function of maximizing application efficiencies, whereas improving productivity, in general, implies maximizing both efficiency and cropland net return. Thus, to improve the productivity of crops with any irrigation system we must consider many factors including the crop variety, plant water requirements, quantity and quality of the water supply, soil characteristics, topography, field size and shape, local climate, and a large number of economic concerns, such as labor requirements, available capital, and other resource costs. Many of these factors are interdependent, and it will be necessary to custom design a synergistic mix of strategies that fit the delivery systems, farming culture, crop water use patterns, soils, regional hydrology, and other unique environmental characteristics of an area. Clemmens and Allen (2005) present an excellent discussion of the environmental and economic trade-offs involved in implementing advanced irrigation practices that improve efficiencies. A critical link in improved productivity is the implementation of advanced scientific irrigation scheduling techniques, especially under deficit management. However, most growers lack sufficient economic incentives to implement the techniques. One of the greatest constraints to managing for enhanced productivity as well as protecting water quality is the inability of agricultural producers to control inputs in

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Chapter 1 Introduction

ways that account for the variability in growing conditions across a field. Infiltration rates can vary between irrigation events as well as with location within the field. Wide variations in soil types, soil chemical properties, subsurface conditions, topography, drainage, insect/weed/disease problems, soil compaction, weather patterns, irrigation system operation and maintenance, and wind distortion of sprinkler patterns, as well as external factors such as herbicide drift, can cause yields and crop water use to vary across a field as well as across adjacent fields. These may also be impacted by tillage practices and crop rotations. Thus, it may be more advantageous to apply water uniformly over smaller portions of a field to minimize production differences and environmental consequences due to the variability of these numerous factors rather than managing the entire field as one management unit. The challenges and opportunities for irrigation equipment manufacturers, designers, researchers, managers, and growers will be immense and ultimately quite profitable. 1.4.4 Water Policy Issues As populations increase, competition for available water supplies will intensify. In some areas of the Western U.S., agricultural water users have some of the most senior water rights. As cities have grown, the consumptive components of water rights have been transferred from agriculture to the municipal sector through the willing sale and purchase of the water rights. Depending on the area and natural rainfall amounts, the farmer selling his water rights reduces the area irrigated or converts the non-irrigated land to dryland farming or pasture. Irrigated land could also be fallowed in alternate years or as part of various irrigated-dryland cropping rotations. Worldwide, water policies involve many entities, each behaving according to its set of rules and incentives. These entities include irrigators, landowners, irrigation districts, water user organizations, state or provincial water agencies, national ministries, development banks and organizations, private voluntary groups, engineering and consulting firms, politicians, voters, and taxpayers. The policies and rules of these entities, in most cases, do not encourage improved irrigation efficiency through design or operation. An estimated $33 billion annually worldwide in government subsidies tend to keep water prices artificially low and discouraging investments to conserve irrigation water supplies (Myers, 1997). In addition, many laws and regulations have been a barrier to marketing or transferring water, leading to inefficient water allocation and use. Similarly, lack of policies to regulate groundwater use has led to over-pumping and depletion of aquifers. There is a worldwide shortage of appropriate institutions to assist growers in managing water more effectively while reducing negative environmental impacts. The following sections provide examples of current policy issues and introduce potential improvements in water policies. For those desiring more information, these issues and more are covered in great detail in numerous publications by private and governmental groups, universities, and agencies that have conducted studies and developed plans to address complex water-related issues in the 21st century. For example, a comprehensive series of reports was prepared for the Western Water Policy Review Commission (established under the Western Water Policy Review Act of 1992 [PL 102-575, Title XXX]). These numerous reports present in-depth analyses of the water resource issues and demographics of every major river system in the West, and are summarized in Water in the West: Challenge for the Next Century (Western Water Policy Review Commission, 1998).

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1.4.4.1 Irrigation delivery management. More than 25 countries are changing the responsibility for managing irrigation systems from the central government to local groups (Vermillion, 1997). Most of these changes are driven as much by the need to cut government expenditures as by the desire to improve irrigation performance. By reducing government subsidies and oversight, however, the hope is that such management transfers will accomplish both goals. The largest management shift of this type in recent times occurred in Mexico, where the management of 2.8 million ha of publicly irrigated land has been turned over to farmer organizations. With the accompanying large reduction in government subsidies, water fees have risen to cover costs. The irrigation districts are now about 80% financially self-sufficient, up from 37% prior to the transfer. The cost of irrigation water, although higher, is still about 5% of total production costs, a typical value for irrigated agriculture. It has yet to be determined whether local management has promoted greater equity in water distribution and more efficient water use (Johnson, 1997). 1.4.4.2 Water pricing. The inability to agree on the economic and social values of healthy freshwater ecosystems and water quality, as well as flood control, recreation, irrigated agriculture, and tourism, has lead to conflicts in many areas of the world. There is a wide spectrum of options, each with its own range of consequences for various sectors and interests. The price of water can be difficult to alter because of the many diverse viewpoints. In many scenarios, charging the full cost for water without changing other institutional and economic structures would put most irrigators out of business. However, charging little or nothing, which is the situation in many irrigation projects, is a clear invitation to waste water and increases the potential for conflict. One option gaining popularity is a tiered pricing structure, which provides strong incentives to conserve water to avoid higher rates. For example, irrigators might be charged the low rate they are accustomed to paying for up to, say, 60% of their average past water use, a significantly higher price for the next 20%, and the full (high) cost for the last 20%. Any water used above the average use would be at full cost plus a penalty. The Broadview Water District in California introduced a tiered water pricing structure in the 1990s. The district determined the average amount of water used in previous years for each crop. Irrigators were charged the customary rate for up to 90% of the average water need. Any water deliveries above 90% were 2.5 times higher in price. Even though they were still paying much less than the real water cost, the irrigators had incentive to conserve. Depending upon the crop, water savings were from 9% to 31% while crop yields were unaffected or increased (California Department of Water Resources, 1998). Another example is Israel, which currently has a price structure where 65% of full evapotranspiration (ET) is provided at a reduced price, but the price increases exponentially for any additional water. 1.4.4.3 Water marketing. Removing barriers to water marketing can also lead to a more equitable distribution of water and improved water use efficiency. The ability to sell some water gives irrigators an incentive to conserve water so they can profit from the sale of the resulting saved water. Formal water markets work only where farmers have legally enforceable rights to their water, and where those rights can be sold. Australia, Chile, Spain, Mexico, and many states in the Western U.S. now have laws and

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Chapter 1 Introduction

policies that permit water markets. One important advantage is that this mechanism is voluntary. As with pricing, a variety of marketing options exist. Water rights owners can sell their water on a seasonal basis or they could enter into a multi-year contract. They could also sell their water rights to another user, in which case the legal water entitlement is transferred permanently. 1.4.4.4 Water transfers. Traditionally, there have always been limited water transfers within irrigated agriculture at the farm and project level, normally from field crops to horticultural crops of higher value. Economic decisions have also caused agricultural water to be transferred to municipal and industrial uses in many areas. However, as demands on the worlds scarce freshwater supplies increase, water transfers from agriculture to other sectors will become more and more common and, in fact, some may become mandated by judicial and legislative processes. Artificial groundwater recharge as a form of water banking, as well as the treatment of degraded aquifer and soil waters for later reuse, are all components in water transfer considerations and policies. Mutual agreements have been reached between municipal and agricultural users that allow an irrigation district or farmers to continue irrigating, but require they make improvements that will conserve water, i.e., reduce the consumptive use component of water diverted. The cost of the improvements is borne by the municipal user. Site conditions often will determine the effectiveness of improvements in reducing water consumption. For example, lining a canal whose seepage normally returns to the river from which the water was originally diverted may not result in much, if any, reduction in water consumed in the river basin. An example of a mutual agreement to conserve irrigation water that could be used by a municipality was reached in 1988-1989 between the California Metropolitan Water District (MWD) and the Imperial Irrigation District (IID). The IID is located in the Imperial Valley of Southern California and diverts water by gravity from the Colorado River. Surface and subsurface flows from irrigated lands in the IID do not return to the Colorado River from which water was diverted, but instead flow to the Salton Sea, which lies about 70 meters below sea level. Improvements were agreed upon that would reduce flows to the Salton Sea, but still enable irrigated farming to continue. The improvements were estimated to conserve about 123 million cubic meters of water annually within IID with the saved water available to the MWD for municipal use (MacDonnell and Rice, 1994; National Research Council, 1996). The IID-MWD conservation program involved lining canals within the IID, improved flow-monitoring structures, installation of non-leak gates, prevention or recovery of canal spills, installation of regulating reservoirs and seepage recovery systems, and system automation. Implied in this agreement is that the IID would reduce its net annual diversion of Colorado River water at Imperial Dam by the amount conserved and the MWD would increase its diversion upstream at Parker Dam by a like amount. The MWD benefits because the cost of the conserved water is less than $0.10 per cubic meter, much lower than its best option for a new supply. The IID benefits from the cash payments and an upgraded irrigation system, and no cropland is taken out of production because the water transferred is generated through conservation (Gomez and Steding, 1998). In another transfer agreement with the MWD, however, farmers were required to remove irrigated land from production. In 1992, the MWD entered into an agreement

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with the Palo Verde Irrigation District located on the west side of the Colorado River in Southern California. The agreement stipulated that farmers who laid fallow a portion of their cropland for two years would be paid $3,000 for each hectare left unplanted. More than 8000 ha were left fallow by 63 farmers. The equivalent of about 10% of the MWDs yearly water deliveries were then transferred and stored in federal reservoirs on the Colorado River to be used anytime before 2000 (Loh and Steding, 1996). There are also some associated environmental agreements being developed including a three-state, 50-year agreement covering restoration of 3300 ha of native habitat along the Colorado River from Hoover Dam to the Mexican border. A third transfer agreement, entered into in 2002, provides mechanisms for transferring water from agricultural to urban users, and serves as the basis for California to settle nearly seven decades of disputes among its water agencies. It involves the IID, the MWD, the San Diego County Water Authority, and the Coachella Valley Water District. Implementation of this 75-year landmark agreement also requires California to meet specific benchmarks for receiving Colorado River water (surplus and otherwise) because the state has to reduce its annual Colorado River diversions from 6.4 billion cubic meters to 5.4 billion cubic meters of water over a 15-year period. The agreement combines temporary fallowing of irrigated lands and the transfer of about 1.2 billion cubic meters while the IID implements on-farm and system water conservation measures paid for by the urban water districts. San Diego agreed to a payment schedule for the water transferred plus $20 million to help cover socioeconomic impacts to the local Imperial Valley communities and landowners over the 15-year period as a result of the transfers. This is in addition to the land management, crop rotation, and water supply transfer agreements with the Palo Verde Irrigation District mentioned above. So far, few countries have the necessary institutional and incentive structures to guide water competition. In Chile, where government policies encourage water marketing, negative impacts seem to be minimal, primarily because farmers have only sold small portions of their water rights to cities that have funded upgrading of existing irrigation systems and operational procedures. 1.4.4.5 Economics and incentives. Both rainfed and irrigated agriculture generally provide only a marginal rate of return to growers in todays world markets. Costs of production are rising while crop prices are remaining static, and many growers need subsidy payments to remain viable despite significant improvements in farming efficiencies. Thus, many producers currently cannot afford to make expensive improvements to enhance productivity. From an economic perspective, many advanced irrigation methodologies have high initial capital costs, which add increased production costs including energy, management, agrochemicals, and land preparation. Researchers and action agencies need to find ways to reduce all inputs, including management time, for growers to remain competitive in a world market. Economists and politicians must find ways to move world crop prices upward to where they truly reflect the increased costs of production, including higher water prices. It is expected that a considerable amount of the cost of any new agricultural infrastructure and field improvements would be privately, rather than publicly, financed. Private development of an intensive, irrigated greenhouse culture will no doubt ex-

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Chapter 1 Introduction

pand greatly. Individuals and farmer-owned irrigation districts will be asked to fund upgrades to existing facilities and systems, but it should not be a one-way street. Recent years have seen governmental investments in irrigation research and infrastructure reduced significantly. However, it is clear that society will have to change its current attitude of minimizing investments in irrigated agriculture, and instead make substantial additional investments towards improving irrigation infrastructure and management to address increased water demands. Innovative policies must reflect the need and mechanisms for equitably funding these investments, and urban users will need to be much more involved in this process than has generally been the case. This is starting to become apparent in Southern California as they attempt to address complex regional water issues. Economic and social policies that include incentives need to be implemented to motivate farmers to reduce negative externalities and consider opportunity costs when choosing irrigation and drainage strategies. Incentives can be either negative or positive, but should be directed both at inputs in agricultural production as well as effluents such as salt, silt, nutrients, and other constituents in surface runoff and deep percolation. They could include collaborative water markets, payments to irrigators for achieving higher efficiencies, higher costs for water per unit area, service charges for each delivery time, reductions in water rights to more closely match ET, or other ways to encourage profitable deficit irrigation strategies. However, policies and incentives have to be economically and culturally acceptable to growers and be accompanied by realistic programs to upgrade and support improved technologies and management. Positive incentives could include payments to growers who meet or exceed targeted irrigation efficiency levels. Payments could be in the form of funds to improve irrigation systems and monitoring equipment, but must also include ways to offset the increased costs of management and labor associated with the improved efficiency. Increasing the actual prices farmers receive for their products by changing governmental policies would also provide incentives and the means for them to improve production, management, and environmentally beneficial practices in the face of declining water availability and rising energy costs. Another incentive could allow landowners to move water from poorly producing soils (whether due to salinity, erosion, or just natural causes) to more productive areas that may be outside an irrigation districts boundaries. Some states, such as Washington, are allowing water spreading in certain areas where water saved by converting to low water use crops or deficit irrigation can be moved to previously nonirrigated lands as long as total historical ET is not increased. Some grower and societal incentives to implement improved irrigation technologies at the irrigation district and farm scales include: reduced labor requirements, lower costs for treating water by reducing the volumes treated, lower costs for pumping water, reduced costs for added distribution capacity in an area of growth, less leaching of fertilizers and chemicals and degradation of groundwater, and sustained flows in segments of streams bypassed by irrigation diversions. These savings and potential environmental benefits accrue both to the irrigation manager and, ultimately, the general populace. In the future, both groups will likely perceive these as necessary incentives. Increasing crop productivity while reducing the amount of applied water depends on the ability of a particular type of irrigation system and the managerial skills of the operator to correctly implement the water-saving practices and techniques. Frequently,

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the controlling factors are the knowledge base of the grower and the existence of incentives to implement the improved practices. Thus, incentives should also reward higher management levels. A concern is that skilled labor for irrigation is becoming more and more limited and many are unwilling to perform the required activities and technological tasks. In addition, the average farming population age in the U.S. is in the 50s, and this age group is less likely than younger farmers to make major improvements or adopt new technologies without substantial incentives.

1.5 FUTURE DIRECTIONS


The discussion above describes standard practices that can be done with current institutional and technological systems. The next step is to look into the future with all of its uncertainty. To aid in that effort, the National Research Council (1996) developed this list of likely future directions for irrigation in the U.S.: Irrigation will continue to play an important role in the U.S. and the world for the foreseeable future, although there will certainly be changes in its character, methods, and scope. The total irrigated area will likely decline, but the value of irrigated agriculture will remain about the same because of shifts to crops of higher value. The amount of water dedicated to irrigated agriculture will decline as societal values change and competition for water increases. A major factor in the sustainability of U.S. irrigation will be determined by our ability to compete in global markets. Under-financed irrigation operations or those with less-skilled managers will tend to decline in number. Previously, irrigation meant irrigation for agriculture. During the past 25 years irrigation has become an important part of the turf industry, and irrigation for urban landscaping and golf courses is growing steadily as urban populations increase. With time, increasing amounts of water will be removed from agriculture to satisfy environmental goals. In conjunction with this, there will be increasing pressures to reduce environmental degradation associated with irrigation. Substantial research and educational challenges must still be addressed regarding water availability, quantity, and quality, water use, and water institutions (National Research Council, 2001, 2004). Changes in policy and incentives will clearly become necessary. The following sections examine some potential issues and solutions to agricultural water security issues. Urban water users will have a similar set of challenges to reduce and modify water consumption. 1.5.1 Need for Innovation Irrigation has been practiced for more than 6000 years, but more innovation has occurred in this arena in the last 100 years than in all of the preceding centuries. Almost every aspect of irrigation has seen significant innovation: diversion works, pumping, filtration, conveyance, distribution, application methods, drainage, power sources, scheduling, fertigation, chemigation, erosion control, land grading, soil water measurement, and water conservation. Major future improvements in water saving will be realized through innovative design and operation of integrated irrigation systems for both agricultural and urban set-

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Chapter 1 Introduction

tings. It is obvious that all these technologies will have to continue to be improved and implemented to better manage energy, water, and soil resources. Novel irrigation techniques and management systems will be necessary to increase the costeffectiveness of crop production, improve water quality, improve water reuse capabilities, reduce soil erosion, and reduce energy requirements while enhancing and sustaining crop production and water use efficiency. In addition, innovative water polices and institutional structures must evolve and foster emerging irrigation technologies. Irrigation is a valuable technology, rooted in ancient tradition, and has proven to be dynamic and flexible. However, new and improved strategies and practices are needed to reduce surface and groundwater contamination from agricultural lands, conserve water and energy, and sustain food production for strategic, economic, and social benefits. Systems must be designed and managed to minimize health hazards due to chemical applications of fertilizers and pesticides as well as to minimize insect infestation and parasitic diseases, such as the West Nile virus and malaria. The effects of water conservation and reuse technologies on recreation, tourism, wetlands, and aquatic ecosystems must be assessed and balanced with other societal needs. Future irrigators will often be operating under various managed crop water deficit scenarios. Increasing crop productivity while reducing the amount of applied water implies that producers will often be managing irrigations under severe to moderate soil water deficit conditions during part or all of the growing season. Techniques such as partial root zone drying and regulated deficit irrigation will be more and more common on tree and vine crops as well as many annual crops (Chalmers et al., 1986; Fereres et al, 2003). Techniques such as fallowing of irrigated fields in alternate years to conserve water need to be investigated as to potential water savings and reduced agrochemical use. Water reuse and treatment of impaired waters will be part of agricultural water security. Innovative approaches to groundwater recharge using treated and excess surface waters for later withdrawals by a multitude of users will be an essential part of future water resource programs.. The following brief sections present more details on some of the issues that agriculture will have to implement to address water security issues. These measures will include: modernizing irrigation delivery systems and on-farm systems, improved levels of management, strategies for local water supply enhancement, and biotechnological advances in crop breeding and selection. 1.5.2 Modernizing Delivery and On-Farm Systems Traditional approaches to modernizing irrigation projects have focused on minimizing water loss during delivery and maximizing field application efficiencies. These are necessary first steps, but future water delivery systems and application techniques must be modified to enhance grower flexibility in managing rates, irrigation frequencies, and durations, as well as reduce water evaporation and other losses. Small, distributed internal regulation reservoirs, closed-conduit systems to reduce evaporation and leave unused water in the distribution system, extensive automated water-level controls, accurate automated flow measurement, and improved ways to reduce weed growth on canal and lateral banks to minimize non-beneficial ET are all potential means of improving water delivery efficiencies. Some of these features are just now beginning to be implemented in a few modernized irrigation projects.

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To maximize the potential of existing and emerging technologies, irrigators must have the flexibility to manage rate, frequency, and duration of their water supplies. Thus, the delivery system and the farm must be considered as one integrated unit with two parts rather than two independent systems. With the imperative need to implement the agreements and mandates discussed previously, the Imperial Valley in California will be a proving ground for these concepts over the next couple of decades, and there is much to learn. In this case, the delivery system will provide irrigation water to satisfy the specific field condition (i.e., rate, frequency, and duration) that is calibrated for each crop and irrigation condition. This will require extensive canal automation and on-farm monitoring as well as economic incentives for achieving better water use productivity. Positive payments for achieving a certain target efficiency or tailwater levels rather than solely raising water costs are anticipated. The following identifies some of the potential areas where innovation is likely to improve delivery and on-farm systems in the 21st century: Computers and wireless control systems will play an ever-expanding role. Cell phone and satellite communications and internet technologies will likely play an increasingly major part in management of irrigation systems. Feedback control technologies for automating canal operations, surface and pressurized systems, and drainage systems must be developed, tested, and supported by incentives. On-farm systems will benefit from advanced technologies, such as precision irrigation, site-specific management, remote sensing, within-field real-time sensor systems, and decision support systems, which collectively have great potential to facilitate reduction of water quantity and quality problems in irrigated agriculture. The use of real-time irrigation scheduling techniques (sensor-based) and sitespecific precision applications of water through center pivot machines and microirrigation are the next steps in the evolution of those technologies. It will be necessary to expand modern crop production technologies to less productive rainfed and irrigated lands characterized by poor soils, low and unstable rainfall, steep slopes, and short growing seasons to increase food production and stimulate economic growth. Novel approaches will be needed to address these areas. Microirrigation with its many variations must be made less expensive before most growers will be able to adopt and utilize these technologies, especially in developing countries. Some localized efforts are ongoing and one company is manufacturing tubing at relatively low cost, but these innovative efforts and technologies need to be extended to other areas. For developing countries, innovative research and extension education is needed to provide and implement simple but efficient low-cost methods of irrigation (e.g., pitcher irrigation) to make them easy to operate, suitable for the crop, and acceptable to growers. There is also a huge need for low-lift pumps that are inexpensive to buy and operate in these areas. Some of this is already being done on relatively small scales, but there is much room for innovation. Surface irrigation methods can be made more efficient using surge flow, deadlevel basins, and other techniques for more uniform infiltration along the length of the field. Properly designed and operated level basins eliminate runoff, can be quite efficient and uniform, and are relatively inexpensive to construct and operate. However, considerable investment for delivery system improvements, as

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well as sensor feedback controls and automation for both the delivery and application systems, is needed to fully realize the potential water savings. Urban and agricultural irrigators will be the primary users of degraded waters. New approaches and techniques will be required to safely minimize detrimental effects while maintaining production goals. Farm- and district-level drainage systems will require improved design, evaluation and simulation models defining the physical limits. Automated control systems will assist in providing a more uniform soil water environment for plant growth to improve productivity and minimize the volumes of drainage waters requiring treatment, especially in arid areas. Water table elevations can be managed to permit subirrigation, if the groundwater is relatively shallow and of suitable quality, by controlling water tables or inducing water tables with irrigation applications. Subirrigation has been practiced successfully in climate regions ranging from humid to arid. Using the effluent from deeper subsurface drainage systems as a source of irrigation water has proven effective in many regions of the world. The biggest concern is the quality (i.e., salinity) of the drainage system effluent. There is still no reliable, inexpensive electronic soil water sensor that matches or exceeds the accuracy and repeatability of neutron scattering devices. Innovative development of such sensors is essential for water management, particularly under deficit conditions. Many of the needed and evolving technologies will require stand-alone, spatially distributed electrical power to be feasible. Controllers, monitoring equipment, and communications devices must be low power consumers. Photovoltaic, wind turbine, and storage systems will need to be developed and implemented at low cost at the farm or field level. Economies of scale have led to large field sizes for irrigated production in many areas, and engineers have been very successful in designing pressurized irrigation systems that apply water quite uniformly over these fields. However, the challenge over the next 50 years for the irrigation industry and designers is to develop highly efficient systems that are also suitable for small-scale farms and provide the necessary extension education to equip the farmers with the skills to run them. Although widely variable, it is estimated that 1% of the global water storage capacity in reservoirs is lost each year to sedimentation (Palimeri, 1998), decreasing the ability to store water. Innovative methods to reduce erosion at the watershed and basin scale will be needed to increase the life of reservoirs for storage, flood control, and recreation uses. Innovation will be required to enable adoption of more efficient irrigation methods. For example, high-frequency drip irrigation and other microirrigation methods have been shown to increase the yield and quality of fruit and vegetable crops through reduced water and nutrient stresses. Tied to an effective soil water monitoring program, good design, and appropriate management practices, microirrigation can be 95% efficient or better. A modification of center pivot irrigation called low energy precision application or LEPA has been found to be 95% efficient as well. However, microirrigation and LEPA irrigation are being used on less than 1% of irrigated lands worldwide.

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1.5.3 Management Inherent in the evolution of on-farm management discussed above will be the integration of irrigation, fertilizer, and pest management strategies into systems that optimize total management practices for temporal and spatial variability. This should result in substantial labor, water, and energy savings and minimize losses to the groundwater. Improved irrigation technologies usually result in reduced labor requirements, but require expanded management. However, most producers who irrigate do not have sufficient time to properly manage all their critical inputs. At certain times of the year, a producers time is extremely valuable in terms of net returns from the crop, and irrigation water management is often not as high a priority as other concurrent cultural factors. Thus, decision support aids must also be developed that improve the producers ability to implement decisions quickly and easily because climatic variations and pest outbreaks require precisely timed water and chemical applications on a daily and seasonal basis. The decision support process must also provide accurate predictions of application efficiencies and uniformities to improve management flexibility. Ensuring the success of irrigated farming enterprises will require the development of reliable and more-timely information on field and plant status to support the decision-making processes. Current plant models capable of predicting the physiological needs of a crop over space and time tend to be complex and impractical for real-time on-farm management. Furthermore, most of these models are point models that are not sensitive enough to adequately predict site-specific plant needs across a field in a timely fashion. Simpler, more appropriate models might be used but will likely need frequent updating via automated, field-based sensor systems to readjust model variables to ensure reasonable tracking and spatial predictions of field conditions. A more focused approach will be required for the development of spatial and temporal management strategies that address site-specific crop water, nutrient, and pest management requirements, and irrigation scheduling in real time. The ultimate goal should be to integrate controls, sensor systems, plant and physical models, and other techniques to provide workable solutions that reduce time requirements for busy decision makers while improving their management capacity. Self-propelled irrigation systems, such as center pivots and linear moves, are particularly amenable to site-specific approaches because of their current level of automation and large area coverage with a single pipe lateral. These technologies hold much promise for spatially varying water and agrochemical applications to match differences in irrigation, nutrient, and pesticide requirements throughout the field. This could potentially increase productivity and minimize adverse water quality impacts. By aligning irrigation water applications with variable water requirements in the field, total water use may be reduced, decreasing deep percolation and surface runoff. This also suggests that water-soluble fertilizers and other agrochemicals can be effectively applied spatially through the irrigation system to match changing conditions across a field. However, there is a need to develop more efficient methods of applying crop amendments (e.g., nutrients, pesticides) with irrigation systems that will reduce agrochemical usage, improve profit margins, and reduce environmental impacts. In some cases, it may be necessary to schedule and irrigate on a plant-by-plant basis. This technology is available today, but is not yet economical or practical. Research is

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Chapter 1 Introduction

needed to give farmers confidence that the use of these technologies is practical and potentially valuable in improving irrigated crop production. Much effort has gone into ET research in the past several decades, and it is one of the most accurate estimates available to irrigation delivery and on-farm managers as long as plants are at relatively low stress levels. However, much additional information is still required on the yield and crop quality affect at various ET levels at different growth stages of both major and minor crops that are in managed soil water deficit conditions, perhaps in combination with increased soil salinity levels. The long term effect of deficits on perennial crops also needs more research to ensure sustainability. Critical information is lacking on actual ET under irrigation systems that are being used for environmental modification to protect the crop from cold temperatures or excessive heat. In addition, research on irrigation management and water use requirements is lacking for intercropping production systems. More research is also needed on how to truly address spatial variability of ET across large fields. This information will be extremely critical to future determinations of both agricultural and urban water rights, water banking, and governmental allocations. Remote sensing of plant and soil status using integrated satellite, aerial, and field level plant- and soil-based sensor systems is another way of providing information, but it also needs further development to improve spatial-temporal modeling and on-farm management as well as irrigation district operations. Better systems and methods capable of precisely measuring specific plant parameters (e.g., nutrient status, water status, disease, and competing weeds) on a timely basis are needed to improve crop modeling and thus improve within-season management. Real-time, on-the-go irrigation scheduling could be very effective in improving water management when based on distributed networks of farm-level microclimate and soil water sensor stations that feed into a microprocessor control system to manage irrigations based on rules established by the producer. This effort must be supported by expanded agricultural weather networks with a greater spatial density and growerfriendly information delivery systems for scheduling irrigations combined with pest management and marketing information. Input from distributed weather networks must be integrated with other information sources to effectively contribute to on-farm and irrigation district decision support processes. In addition to irrigation, self-propelled irrigation systems also provide an outstanding platform on which to mount sensors for real-time monitoring of plant and soil conditions, which in turn provide input to the control system for optimal environmental benefits. Similar sensor technologies tied to a global positioning system can also be mounted on-farm equipment so that site-specific information is collected each time the grower is in the field. Early detection of diseases, weeds, insects, and even nutrient deficiencies would allow more economical spot treatments of small areas within a field. 1.5.4 Strategies for Local Water Supply Enhancement Techniques to capture more water in either surface or subsurface impoundments and aquifers will only be briefly mentioned because they are beyond the scope of this monograph. However, it is worthwhile to introduce a few practical measures to increase local water availability on the farm and perhaps stimulate additional efforts in this critical area. Unger and Howell (1999) present a much more complete review of

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the pros and cons of various dryland and irrigated techniques available for local water conservation. Strategies to be considered as a part of these activities include irrigation system design for higher efficiency, successful treatment and reuse of degraded waters, reducing evaporation losses, site-specific applications, managed-deficit irrigations of tree and vine crops, and techniques to minimize leaching. However, they will not be repeated as many of these have already been introduced and some are discussed in more detail in other chapters. Perhaps the most neglected local water source is the capture, diversion, and storage of precipitation (both rainfall and snowmelt) where it falls in the field. The goal is to capture water falling on croplands and supplement this with water from nearby noncropped areas. This is often referred to as water harvesting and is used around the world to supplement irrigation by improving water availability. It can be an effective water conservation tool, especially in arid and semi-arid regions (Unger and Howell, 1999). These practices may also benefit soil fertility by capturing dissolved nutrients, and may also provide broader environmental benefits through reduced soil erosion. Where feasible, small reservoirs or storage tanks that minimize evaporation and seepage losses could be constructed at both regional and farm scales to capture runoff from storms for later use. Where groundwater is a viable water supply, techniques to recharge aquifers, such as recharge wells and percolation ponds, should be considered to increase supplies. Substituting a crop with low consumption for a crop with higher water consumption or switching to crops with higher economic benefit or productivity per unit of water consumed by ET can provide water savings. Reallocation of water from low-value crops to higher-value crops can also increase the economic productivity of water. Conservation tillage practices (e.g., strip till, ridge till) that maintain surface crop residues or mulches to reduce evaporation can increase the share of rainfall that goes to infiltration and ET. Contour plowing, which has been promoted as a soil-preserving technique, can detain and infiltrate a higher share of the precipitation. Techniques such as precision leveling can capture a higher percentage of effective rainfall and improve soil water management. Furrow diking in sprinkler irrigated areas (e.g., LEPA) to hold water where it falls is beneficial. The use of mulches for weed control also reduces non-beneficial ET and soil evaporation. Drip irrigation technologies can conserve water by greatly reducing soil evaporation and maximizing water use efficiencies. These strategies could also incorporate the use of alternative cropping systems including winter crops and deeprooted cultivars that maximize the utilization of soil water and nutrients. Weed control to reduce non-beneficial water use is critical. Another technique employs a series of dikes or terraces placed on the contour to capture precipitation as it runs off and convey it to cropland. This is currently used in certain areas of Australia where some storm water runoff is captured at the low ends of large properties where large pumps convey the collected water into large aboveground tanks for livestock, irrigation, and other uses. 1.5.5 Cultural/Crop/Plant Selection Factors In combination with molecular techniques and processes, plant breeders and molecular biologists will be selecting plants that use less water with a concurrent toler-

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Chapter 1 Introduction

ance to heat stress (less transpirational cooling) and greater tolerance to salinity, diseases, weeds, and insect pests while producing high-quality crops. The problem is that no single gene or series of genes has been specifically identified with increasing yields (Mann, 1999). Comparatively small advances in disease and pest resistance as well as drought resistance are forecasted. Crop breeding will have greater focus on more efficient water use by selecting for optimal growing season lengths and harvest dates that take maximum advantage of rainfall timing at critical growth stages for each region. These activities must be accompanied by multidisciplinary, collaborative research into soil management, pest control (by tillage, cultural, biological, and chemical means), green manures, and the yield and quality responses of the new cultivars to both full and deficit irrigation amounts, increased salinity levels, degraded reuse water from a variety of sources, and the effects of climate change. Intercropping, which is a cultural practice in some irrigated areas in the world, may be advantageous to help satisfy future production expectations if expanded into rainfed and irrigated areas that are already highly productive. However, because varieties that can tolerate water and nutrient stress must be developed as well as production strategies for interseeding and for the use of short season crops to facilitate production of multiple crops per year in temperate to humid areas, substantial progress in these areas is expected to be a lengthy process.

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