Growing more food with less water

Texas farmers dramatically cut water use while increasing crop yields

Amosson_StudyChartHigh Plains corn farmers who irrigate their crops from the Ogallala Aquifer used a combination of new technology and methods to grow more corn with less water, according to a report from researchers with Texas A&M AgriLife Research.

Comparing data from 1998-2002 to data from 2010-2013, the researchers found the following:

  • The amount of irrigation water applied per acre decreased by 16.07%
  • The amount of corn produced per acre increased by 10.86%
  • The amount of corn produced per acre/inch of irrigation water increased by 27.69%

Researchers attributed the gains in water-use efficiency to genetic improvements, improved irrigation scheduling techniques, increased adoption of conservation tillage practices and adoption of more efficient irrigation equipment.

Over the 15-year period of the study, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) worked extensively with farmers throughout the region to develop individualized conservation plans and provided cost-sharing to help farmers upgrade to more efficient irrigation equipment.

Steve Amosson, Ph.D., with AgriLife in Amarillo, offers insight into the study’s findings:

Report says public impression of corn water use not accurate

The report on corn water use in the Texas High Plains states that corn uses water more efficiently than many people believe:

“The high water demand and the susceptibility to water stress of corn have created an impression of corn being inefficient in water use. . . . However, the high water requirement of corn is more than compensated by its increased productivity relative to other crops. Corn is physiologically more efficient in resource use compared to cotton and soybean. This difference in physiological efficiency makes corn potentially more efficient in the use of water, nitrogen, and CO2.”

Additional resources

  • Read highlights from the study HERE
  • Read the full report HERE