Should I Irrigate My Pastures?

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One thought on “Should I Irrigate My Pastures?

  1. It is quickly obvious when they talk about water use, even without looking at the list, that the authors are from humid regions.

    In the western and Southern Great Plains, potential water use by native short-grasses may use 0.25 to 0.3 inches/day in late spring. In the heat of summer, that approaches or exceeds 0.5 inches/day, though water is seldom available to meet the potential water use. Potential water use is greater for improved-grass or mixed-grass pastures which have greater biomass production.

    The efficiency of biomass production decreases as one moves from the northern Great Plains (cooler mean temperature) to the Southern Great Plains (warmer mean temperature), and as one moves from the tall-grass prairies (greater precipitation and relative humidity = less evaporative demand) west to the short-grass prairies (less precipitation and lower relative humidities = greater evaporative demand).

    In semiarid and arid regions, irrigation dramatically increases biomass production. However, biomass production for hay or grazing livestock systems is seldom the most profitable use of irrigation water.

    All other comments apply to any region, except the potential for getting water from streams. As precipitation decreases as one moves west, streams become fewer and farther apart; most are ephemeral. If present, aquifers become the water source for irrigation since precipitation in most semiarid regions is insufficient to support groundwater, except near perennial rivers.

    Perhaps you could provide a disclaimer at the beginning of the article that narrows the scope of application.

    Clay Robinson, PhD
    Certified Professional Soil Scientist
    Former Professor of Soil Science

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