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Rice researchers focus on water conservation

With predictions of severe water shortages in Texas over the next 50 years, legislators, farmers, government agencies and consumers are working overtime to find solutions.

Scientists at the Texas A&M Research and Extension Center in Beaumont, Texas, are working with the Lower Colorado River Authority to help rice farmers in this effort. According to Yubin Yang, senior biosystems analyst, the team is developing a Web-based on-farm water conservation analysis tool.

The Rice Water Conservation Analyzer can be used to estimate the potential water savings and evaluate the costs and benefits associated with different on-farm rice water conservation improvements.

The water conservation improvements considered by this conservation analyzer include precision grading, multiple inlet, conservation tillage, lateral improvement, and tailwater recovery.

“When farmers save water, it's good for the environment, and it's good for them as well because they save money,” Yang said.

“Precision grading is done with large equipment that levels the soil,” he said, “and when there are no high spots or low spots, less water is needed for flushing and flood establishment.”

A multiple inlet system allows simultaneous irrigation of multiple paddies in a rice field. It reduces the time needed to irrigate a field and allows better control of inflow, which minimizes tailwater loss.

The conservation analyzer allows users to configure varying degrees of conservation improvements.

“Depending on the existing system, and water conservation improvements, water savings will vary and so will the associated costs and benefits,” Yang said.

This tool will initially be used by the river authority to determine whether the target conservation levels can be achieved within the acreage in rice production, and what level of practice implementation is required to achieve the targets.

Jay Cockrell writes for the Texas A&M Research and Extension.

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