The Southwest Research and Extension Center in Garden City, Kansas, completed a five year study on the impact of water application on alfalfa reported Mary Lou Peter for Farm Talk.
Alfalfa is packed with nutrients, is highly digestible, has deep roots, and produces high economic returns, but it also requires more water than other annual crops.
Norman Klocke, recently retired K-State Research and Extension water resources engineer, along with researchers Randall Currie and John Holman, designed a field study to reflect the declining ability of the aquifer to supply irrigation water, the constraints of water rights and irrigation management.
“The bottom line is that alfalfa produces good economic returns when it has plenty of water, but yields fall off over years when stored soil water is depleted due to less than optimum water from irrigation,” Klocke said. “Using yield results from this experiment, producers can make comparisons of the profitability of alfalfa and other irrigated crops.”
“Results show alternatives through crop selection and irrigation management to compensate for less irrigation, but water is still essential for crop production and unfortunately less water means smaller yields,” Klocke said.
K-State’s Crop Water Allocator can be accessed at mobileirrigationlab.com. The site helps producers evaluate economic returns from alfalfa, corn, wheat, sorghum, soybeans, and sunflowers.