As the worst drought in 50 years gripped America’s farmland in the summer of 2012, and crop failure was rampant, three Nebraska producers reported increased soybean yields and significantly lower water use at the same time by using Subsurface Drip Irrigation (SDI) to deliver water and nutrients directly to the roots of their crops. This was in contrast to the typical practice of applying water to the surface with gravity or sprinkler irrigation systems. In addition to improved yields and resource use efficiency (RUE), other benefits cited included an improved ability to farm in drought conditions, improved flexibility and improved convenience. In each of these case studies, the producer found SDI a worthwhile investment.
Even before the perfect storm of diminished water supplies, rising corn prices and government cost-share funding hit the plains, Steven Cox knew his irrigated farms would have to change. That’s why he installed his first subsurface drip irrigation system over nine years ago on his 4,000 acre operation, and has installed an additional 120 acres of drip irrigation since.
The conversion has allowed him to stretch limited water supplies while increasing yields and gain quality at the same time. “Before drip, we were trying to flood irrigate 60 acres with a 250 GPM well. We were lucky to get top yields on 25 percent of the field. I now get top yields on 100 percent of the field because of the increased uniformity and efficiency I get with drip.”