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Posts Tagged: irrigation

Russell Ranch field day at UC Davis is June 8

A researcher speaks at the 2015 Russell Field Day. (Photo: Agricultural Sustainability Institute)
The Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility, located near the UC Davis campus, will be holding its annual field day June 8 on the theme of "Farm Water Management in Times of Scarcity." Members of the public are encouraged to attend.

Presenters will explore research, farmers' practices, and commercial products that aim to make California agriculture more resilient in the face of drought, weather extremes, and uncertain water allocations. Presentations from researchers in the morning will be followed by lunch and a panel discussion with area growers.

The field day is free for farmers, $5 for students, and $10 for the general public.

Russell Ranch is a unique 300-acre facility dedicated to investigating irrigated and dry-land agriculture in a Mediterranean climate. The ranch is run like a commercial farm and features a variety of research activities by UC faculty and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers, with the aim of informing California agricultural practices. Russell Ranch is home to the flagship 100-year Century Experiment, an ongoing mega-experiment focusing on sustainable agricultural practices in California.

Since 1994, Russell Ranch has hosted an annual field day to share research findings related to pressing topics in California agriculture. This year's event will focus on a common challenge of farm fields across California: how to ensure healthy crops when the availability of key resources is uncertain.

The field day includes tours of Russell Ranch, in-field presentations, panel discussions with growers, and a poster session to learn about the variety of research and outreach on the topic of water management and scarcity.

The schedule of events is as follows:

8:30 – 11:30 a.m. Presentations from researchers

11:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Lunch; view research posters and exhibitions from vendors of commercial irrigation products

12:30 – 1:15 p.m. Farmer panel discussion: Water Management on Farm: Challenges and Opportunities

The field day features presentations from:

Olivier Jerphagnon, PowWow Energy, Inc.
Stan Knutson, PowWow Energy, Inc.
Teresa Carillo-Cobo, Agricultural Sustainability Institute post-doctoral scholar
Amelie Gaudin, Assistant professor, Dept. of Plant Sciences at UC Davis
Martin Burger, Associate Project Scientist, Dept. of Land, Air, and Water Resources at UC Davis

Mark Lundy, Assistant Cooperative Extension Specialist, Dept. of Plant Sciences at UC Davis
Dan Putnam, Cooperative Extension Specialist, Dept. of Plant Sciences at UC Davis
Daniele Zaccaria, Assistant Cooperative Extension Specialist, Dept. of Land, Air, and Water Resources at UC Davis
Tim Hartz, Cooperative Extension Specialist/Agronomist, Dept. of Plant Sciences at UC Davis
Toby O'Geen, Cooperative Extension Soil Resources Specialist, Dept. of Land, Air, and Water Resources at UC Davis

Graham Fogg, Professor of Hydrogeology, Dept. of Land, Air, and Water Resources at UC Davis
Darren Drewry, Research Scientist, Climate Physics Group, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Russell Ranch's Annual Field Day
Farm Water Management in Times of Scarcity
June 8, 2016, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Register at:


Farmers: free
Students: $5
General: $10

Posted on Wednesday, June 1, 2016 at 5:54 AM
Tags: drought (2), irrigation (7), Russell Ranch (1)

Second video in series helps Californians conserve more water

It's best to irrigate early in the morning. (Photo: Ricardo Bernardo)
Californians cut water use in July by 31.3 percent compared to the same month in 2013, exceeding Gov. Brown's 25 percent mandate for the second consecutive month, the California State Water Control Board reported last week.

With dry conditions forecast to continue through November, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources developed a series of videos with tips for enhancing conservation efforts in outdoor landscapes. The second video in the series, which debuts today, advises homeowners to limit outdoor irrigation to the early morning hours.

In the morning, says host Missy Gable, director of the UC Master Gardener Program, “you're not competing with sun or wind, both of which can cause water to evaporate from the soil.”

An obstacle to changing irrigation times for some Californians is a lack of familiarity with their own irrigation systems. The California Garden Web is an informative service of the UC Master Gardener Program that can help users understand the basics of irrigation controllers and irrigation system adjustment.

The website provides a link where residents can find their irrigation controller manuals online. A landscape irrigation worksheet developed by UC ANR researchers can be downloaded to finesse irrigation intervals and timing.

Much more gardening information can be found on the California Garden Web, which serves as a portal to organize and share UC ANR's vast collection of research-based information about gardening.

Following is the second video in the new series on water conservation in landscapes:

View the first video in the series, with advise on prioritizing plants when irrigation water is short.

An initiative to improve California water quality, quantity and security is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Author: Jeannette Warnert

Posted on Monday, August 31, 2015 at 10:33 AM
Tags: drought (2), irrigation (7), Missy Gable (1)

6 ways to reduce water use without killing your garden

Spray heads can get knocked out of alignment. Check all spray heads to ensure they are hitting the target.
To conserve water and meet California's new water-use restrictions, one place to start is literally in one's own backyard. More than half of all household water use is typically used outdoors on landscape, according to University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources experts.  

For homeowners, there are six key things to do to conserve landscape water, says Karrie Reid, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor, in San Joaquin County. Reid gives the following six tips:

  1. Tune up your irrigation system right away. When water is efficiently and accurately applied, less water is needed to keep plants healthy. Spray heads can get knocked out of alignment and end up spraying the sidewalk, street or driveway and running to the gutter. Check all spray heads to ensure they are hitting the target and twist those that aren't back into place. Some heads have adjustable angles of spray, which can be fixed with a tool available at a hardware store. Look for cocked heads, which spray water up into the air, and sprays blocked by grass or those that have sunk below grade. Make sure all spray heads are made by the same manufacturer and are from the same line so they deliver water at the same rate, otherwise they'll leave dry spots. Low-volume spray heads or rotators deliver water more efficiently.

  2. To check the watering depth, use a soil probe.
    Water the whole root zone. On allowed watering days, irrigate until the water reaches 12 inches deep for grass, 12 to 18 inches for shrub and perennials, and 12 to 24 inches for trees. This provides a greater reservoir of water for the plants to draw from, and many will be able to get by on weekly, twice-monthly or monthly irrigation if they are conditioned to send their roots deep. To check the watering depth, use a soil probe or push a long screwdriver into the ground. The depth it reaches easily indicates how deeply the water has infiltrated.
  3. Avoid wasting water to runoff. If water runs off before the watering cycle finishes, split the cycle time. Set the timer to water in two, three or even four cycles at least an hour apart to allow the water to soak in. To ensure water isn't flowing below the root zone, check the watering depth after each cycle.

    An irrigation scheduling worksheet created by Loren Oki, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, and Darren Haver, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor in Orange County, helps fine tune irrigation timing. The worksheet is available for free online at the Center for Urban Horticulture website  

  4. Switch to inline drip tubing for beds.  Drip irrigation applies water where it is needed with less loss to the air. Be sure to lay tubing so water reaches plants' entire root zone.

  5. MULCH, MULCH, MULCH. Adding 3 or 4 inches of organic material such as wood chips, shredded bark or bark nuggets will improve soil health while retaining water and lowering stress on your plants. Place mulch away from the street curb to prevent heavy rains from washing it into the storm drains.

  6. Inline drip tubing applies water where it is needed.
    Replace water-needy plants with low water users in the fall. All plants use a lot of water to get established when they are planted in the spring and summer, and for about a year after. Trees may need extra water for several years until their roots have grown well into the surrounding soil. By waiting until temperatures cool in the fall to plant, it will be easier to abide by the water restrictions. It's also important to use hydrozoning, which means placing plants with the same water needs on the same valve.  Otherwise, irrigating to the thirstiest plants on that station will give other plants more water than they need.

WUCOLS IV provides an assessment of irrigation water needs for over 3,500 taxa. Photo by Ellen Zagory.
To find low-water use plants that are suitable for a specific location, check UCANR's online Water Use Classification of Landscape Species at Click the Plant Search Database tab, enter the name of the city, then select the desired type of plants (shrubs, perennials, trees, etc.) and the preferred water category (low, moderate, high).  The application will generate a list of plants suitable to grow in a location that fit the specified criteria.

Posted on Monday, April 20, 2015 at 8:35 AM

UC scientists helping farmers reduce water needs

Rain in December raised hopes for an end to the California drought, but storms have stayed away since the New Year began. January 2015 is shaping up to be the driest January since officials began keeping records 137 years ago, according to the National Weather Service.

California's continuing water crisis is leading to decreased and more variable water supplies for San Joaquin Valley farmers, and the region's forage production sector is being hit particularly hard.

“Corn silage and alfalfa have traditionally used lots of water and current and future water restrictions are forcing many farmers to rethink their forage production strategies,” said Jeff Dahlberg, UC Cooperative Extension specialist. “I know of one dairy that had to cut-off their summer irrigations of alfalfa to get their corn silage done.”

To help the agriculture industry make do with less water, a team of UC researchers began a long-term research project last year by growing alfalfa, sorghum and corn under a state-of-the-art center pivot irrigation system. The system, donated by industry partners, is installed at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center near Five Points. Reinke Inc. donated the center pivot, Senninger Irrigation donated nozzles, and Rain for Rent created the infrastructure that gets water and power to the 16-acre research plot.

“We see tremendous possibilities for overhead irrigation in cotton, alfalfa, corn, onions and wheat production,” said Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and the project lead. “There is also great potential for overhead irrigation in California's $5 billion dairy industry for more efficiently producing feed crops like alfalfa, corn and sorghum.”

All aspects of production – including irrigation system performance, crop growth and development, weed control, water application, and economic viability – are being monitored by researchers from UC Cooperative Extension, Fresno State University and UC Davis, plus farmer cooperators and industry partners.

The primary focus of the study is comparing regular irrigation levels with regulated deficit irrigation, a system in which water is withheld at certain times in crop development in order to minimize crop losses even when water is short.

The overhead irrigation system allows researchers to make precise adjustments in water delivery.
“By controlling the speed of the pivot and by using special water application nozzles that apply precise and different amounts of water, we will get either full irrigation, three-quarters of the full amount or about half of the full irrigation quantity over the course of the season,” Mitchell said.

The researchers will apply small, precise amounts of water during the vegetative growth stage for sorghum and both immediately before and after monthly harvests and during the mid- to late-summer period for alfalfa when San Joaquin Valley productivity typically is reduced under flood irrigation.

“We expect to produce marketable and economic yields for sorghum using 25 percent less water as has been achieved under pivots in Texas and similar increases in crop water productivity for alfalfa,” Mitchell said. “This work will inform and improve future water management strategies in California.”

Overhead irrigation systems, such as center pivot systems, are the most prevalent form of irrigation nationwide; however, they have not been widely adopted in California to date. Recent technological advances in overhead irrigation – which allows integration of irrigation with global positioning systems (GPS) and management of vast acreage from a computer or smart phone – have boosted farmers' interest in converting from gravity-fed surface irrigation systems, which are still used on 5 million acres of California farmland.

The research is funded in part with a grant from the UC California Institute for Water Resources. In addition to Dahlberg and Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension alfalfa specialist Dan Putnam and UCCE advisor in Fresno County Dan Munk are collaborators on the project.

An initiative to improve California water quality, quantity and security is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Posted on Monday, January 26, 2015 at 9:20 AM

July's high evapotranspiration rates trigger conservation efforts

The Water Conservation Act of 2009, also referred to as Senate Bill x7-7 or “20 by 2020,” mandates that California reduce urban per capita water use by 20 percent by the year 2020. It also requires all water suppliers to increase water use efficiency.

Sprinkler head spraying water in grass lawn turf.
It’s estimated that 50 percent of California’s residential water is used outdoors — to water lawns, ornamental plantings and vegetable gardens, and in swimming pools. Our water use practices can always become more efficient. 

To help us become more aware of our watering practices, July is designated as Smart Irrigation Month by the national Irrigation Association. July is the month across most of North America when evapotranspiration rates are highest. The Irrigation Association uses the phrase “saved water is money in the bank” to draw attention to the need to water landscapes and gardens, golf courses and shopping center plantings more efficiently.  

In a presentation in Groveland, Calif., Brad Lancaster, the author of “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond” asked the question, “Why do we use treated drinking water to irrigate our lawns?” The number one use of energy in California is to pump and move water.

Many of us in UC Cooperative Extension outreach are asked over and over during the hot, inland California summers: “How much should I water?” Although there are simple rules of thumb, the answer is, “It depends.” Effective irrigation depends on type of soil, slope, elevation, type of plants, where the plant is growing, etc.

Water running off driveway from irrigation of adjacent residential landscape.
The University of California Integrated Pest Management (IPM) website offers in-depth information for California residents interested in healthy lawn care and efficient irrigation. If you aren’t familiar with the website,  check out the interactive irrigation testing and scheduling tools.

In addition to efficient irrigation scheduling, there are some fairly simple (and some not-so-simple) techniques that can help reduce outdoor residential water use:

  • Check watering depth. A long screwdriver blade will penetrate easily into damp soil.   Use it to gauge how deeply water is penetrating.
  • Add organic material to the soil. Compost, homemade or purchased, helps clay soils drain and helps sandy soils retain moisture. Compost also reduces water demands, helps control soil erosion, and reduces plant stress from drought.
  • To combat evaporation, plant closely enough that plants shade the soil.  
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch, mulch to slow evaporation from the soil surface.
  • The amount of water needed varies by species of plant, the time of year, the amount of sunlight, air temperature, etc. The general rule of thumb is that turf grasses use up to about a quarter inch of water per day during the hottest part of the summer. To replace that almost two inches of water per week, divide the amount of water needed into one to three irrigations per week.
  • Consider replacing some plantings with drought-tolerant natives.
  • Consider reducing lawn size. 
  • Check sprinklers for leaks, broken heads, misaligned spray patterns and run-off. 
  • If water is running off, “cycle” irrigation. Run sprinklers until run-off appears, stop until water infiltrates, and repeat until deep irrigation is achieved.

For more information, see the UC Guide to Healthy Lawns.

"Catch can test" checking sprinkler delivery uniformity.
Posted on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 9:09 AM

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