About the Program
Oklahoma State University has initiated a Master Irrigator Program to provide advanced training on irrigation water management, irrigation equipment maintenance, energy conservation, water conservation, and economics of irrigated agriculture. The program includes classroom training, peer-to-peer exchange of information between producers, field demonstrations, and free-of-charge services such as energy audits through mobile irrigation laboratories. The instructors include extension specialists, irrigation specialists, and economists from OSU and adjoining states, producers, crop consultants and NRCS personnel. The program is being launched in the Oklahoma Panhandle in Winter January/February 2021, but will be modified to meet the diverse needs of other regions of the state in subsequent years.
Goal of the Program
The overall goal of the program is to facilitate improved water use efficiency and farm income via increased farmer adoption of advanced water management strategies and technologies.
Participants are required to complete four days of training to be eligible for the following benefits:
- Four days of basic and advanced training on irrigation, crop choices and irrigation systems.
- Participants will be eligible for reimbursements of $2000 on purchase of soil moisture sensors. through funding provided by Oklahoma Conservation Commission and Oklahoma Water Resource Board.
- Free of charge energy and irrigation system efficiency audits will be provided to the participants through mobile irrigation laboratory.
Why this Program?
Use of irrigation scheduling tools to manage irrigation water application can increase water productivity, but with less capital cost than installation of new irrigation systems. However, use of irrigation scheduling technologies and tools, such as soil moisture sensors and/or crop growth model based irrigation schedulers, require advanced knowledge to apply effectively. Prior research in the High Plains region found that using precision irrigation scheduling increased water productivity by 25% compared to conventional irrigation application. This was achieved with a 10% reduction in water use and a 13% yield increase. This suggests that adoption of precision irrigation management could reduce water demand by 76,000 acre-feet/year statewide without impacting, and potentially increasing, productivity.
The Master Irrigator program initially focuses on the declining water levels of the Ogallala Aquifer in the Oklahoma Panhandle region. The Oklahoma Panhandle receives the least rainfall in the state, yet the area is actively farmed for grain production. Irrigation helps with increasing and stabilizing the crop yields therefore supporting the local economy. However, the groundwater table in the region is declining due to water extraction at rates exceeding recharge of the aquifer. As a result, the well capacities have declined. Producers in the area are already combining multiple wells to meet crop water demands, reducing irrigated acreage or exploring alternative crops with low water demand. These water saving technologies and strategies could be used for sustainable use of irrigation water. However, there are limitations in adoption of water conservation strategies including limited technical know-how, inadequate knowledge on cost-to-benefit ratio of the technology, inability to interpret digital data and decision making. The Oklahoma Master Irrigation Program aims at providing training regarding these issues to help producers better manage their limited water and increase the longevity of the aquifer, while maintaining/improving the farm income.
Who can take this Program?
Producers, farm technicians/managers and crop consultants from the Oklahoma Panhandle are welcome to enroll in the program.
Oklahoma Panhandle Research and Extension Center, Goodwell, OK-73939
- Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service
- Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station
- Oklahoma Conservation Commission
- Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry
- Oklahoma Farm Bureau
- Oklahoma Panhandle Agriculture and Irrigation Association
- Oklahoma Water Resources Board
- Oklahoma Water Resources Center
OSU Program Leaders
- Sumit Sharma, Plant & Soil Sciences - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jason Warren, Plant & Soil Sciences - email@example.com
- Saleh Taghvaeian, Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kevin Wagner, Oklahoma Water Resources Center - email@example.com