USU irrigation study in Cedar City reducing water without reducing crops

Matt Yost teaching growers about improving fertilizer and irrigation practices at a USU Extension field day.

A new irrigation study is underway at the Southern Utah University farm in Cedar City to determine how much water is needed to optimally grow crops. Utah State University Assistant Professor of Agriculture Matt Yost explains early findings in the study.

“What we know so far is that we can reduce our irrigation rates if we use more efficient, more innovative sprinkler technology,” Yost explains. “There are a few of them on the market right now that are working quite well. We can cut back about 20 percent on our irrigation rate and still maintain our crop production.”

He says the cost of the irrigation can be more expensive, but it can yield long-term benefits.

“It’s about twice the cost of a normal system that farmers put on their center pivots and so it is an additional cost,” Yost adds. “But there are farmers in the state who have seen the advantages and benefits and they have invested in them.

“One example is a large farm down in Iron County where they have converted just about 80 center pivots to the new technology.”

Dr. Yost says another approach, working with drought-tolerant genetics — specifically a corn hybrid which is supposed to be good at handling water stress — hasn’t performed well.

The research project is being conducted by Utah State University graduate students and faculty at the Southern Utah University Farm in Cedar City.

Dr. Yost was recently recognized as the Graduate Research Mentor of the Year from Utah State University’s College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences.

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