Critical to agricultural security in Colorado is the optimal use of water amidst the pressures of municipal and industrial use, drought and climate variability, and shifting market demands. Over the next decades, these pressures will intensify, due to the confluence of population growth, water shortages and climate change. The Colorado River Basin in particular faces an ongoing supply and demand imbalance of water resources. This imbalance affects the Western Slope, as well as the Front Range, with its heavy reliance on trans-mountain diversions (TMDs). With the majority of Colorado water rights used for agriculture, the next generations of farmers face a pressing need to increase the conservation and efficiency of water use in many forms.
The Irrigation & Water Resources (IWR) program at WCRC-Fruita works with agricultural producers (e.g., farmers, growers, ranchers), industry partners, conservation and conservancy districts, interest groups and other academic institutions. Engagement under the IWR program supports the creation, evaluation, demonstration and deployment of technologies that improve agricultural irrigation and water resources management.
Automation of Furrow Irrigation Systems to Optimize Water use and Reduce Tailwater Loss
- Furrow and flood irrigation is the dominant method used to water fields and pastures on the Western Slope. Although this form of irrigation is more inherently inefficient than other approaches, modest efficiency improvements (10-20%) are attainable within these systems. This project includes a partnership with Watch Technologies (https://watchtechnologies.com) to evaluate technology for automating furrow and flood irrigation. This technology uses telemetric communication between the irrigation delivery point (e.g., gated pipe, canal outlet) and infield soil moisture sensors. Water delivery to the field can be reduced gradually based on feedback from sensors, thus diminishing runoff, nutrient and sediment losses.
COLLABORATORS: Perry Cabot, Reza Keshavarz, Kevin Gobbo, Jim Fry, Watch Technologies, Trout Unlimited
Sub-surface Drip Irrigation Research and Demonstration to Improve Agricultural Water use Efficiency
- Construction began in 2018 on a 5.45 ac subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) system that can accommodate separate control and monitoring of 66 individual plots (each 0.08 ac). The first phase of the system includes the overall control and monitoring system (e.g., Hunter® ACC-99D controller, Hunter® Hunter ICD-100 decoders), water delivery infrastructure (e.g., Munro® 2 HP pump, Eurodrip® filter, piping) and 22 plots (Rivulis-Eurodrip® 10MIL 0.27 gph T-tape) in the northern portion of the field. This system supports research on crop water use at varying irrigation application rates, while also establishing a location where farmers can learn about SDI. This field is managed using no-tillage and minimum-tillage practices.
COLLABORATORS: Perry Cabot, Reza Keshavarz, Kevin Gobbo, Jim Fry
Evaluation of Soil Moisture Monitoring Technology to Improve Irrigation Scheduling
- Soil moisture monitoring technology is widely promoted by agencies and industries alike, as a means of improving irrigation water management. An ongoing project to understand the drivers that lead to adopting these tools, as well as the barriers that prevent their adoption and use involves partnering with local farmers and interest groups. There is an interest in using these tools as part of a larger network, if they can be demonstrated to improve yields, increase crop quality and save on labor costs. Additional outcomes for improving resilience to water shortages, both natural and administrative, provide tangential incentives. Various sensors are being evaluated including the Irrometer® Watermark© and Decagon® 5TE.
COLLABORATORS: Perry Cabot, Seth Urbanowitz, Colorado River District
Remote-sensing Technologies to Monitor Water Stress and Evaluate Consumptive Use
- Improved measurement of consumptive use (CU) could reduce costs of monitoring and increase reliability of water-sharing programs. Remote-sensing and radiometric based assessments can better represent actual CU (ACU) since they are much closer to real-time and actual conditions. These methods have been advocated as an alternative method for estimating actual CU where diversion records are too coarse to quantify CU at parcel scales, empirical models are not sufficiently specific for regional business transactions and program monitoring, and point-based direct measurements are too costly to implement. Monthly ACU measurements could serve as the basis for estimating conserved CU at larger spatial scales on the Western Slope. The WCRC-Fruita has an alfalfa field and a grass field that are both currently under evaluation for ACU at varying irrigation rates.
COLLABORATORS: Perry Cabot, Joe Brummer, Sumit Gautam
Effects of Minimum Tillage on Irrigation Advance Rates and Soil Moisture Profiles under Furrow Irrigation
Minimum tend to have higher infiltration rates and better soil moisture holding capacity. The objective of this multi-year study is to compare corn grain yields, water advance rates and soil moisture in conventionally tilled (moldboard and chisel plow) versus minimum tilled (strip till and no-till) fields. Furrow flumes are positioned at three distance along the furrows with replication and use of temperature sensors to signal arrival of flowing water.
COLLABORATORS: Perry Cabot, Reza Keshavarz
Design and Fabrication of a Small-Scale Oilseed Processing System to Produce Feedstock for Diesel Biofuels
The short-term goal of the project was to design, fabricate and test a small-scale oilseed processing system, for the purpose of crushing oilseeds into straight vegetable oil (SVO). The system was to be designed for mobile transport, and housed at the Colorado State University (CSU) Agricultural Experiment Station at Orchard Mesa. The broader goal was to have this system be made available to agricultural producers in the Delta, Mesa and Montrose County region of Colorado (and beyond, if possible). Farmers interested in growing oilseed crops such as canola/rapeseed (Brassica napus L.) and sunflower (Helianthus annuus) have periodically expressed interest in this kind of system to serve the purpose of producing a feedstock for biofuels.
COLLABORATORS: Perry Cabot, Dan Olsen
Residue Management and Soil Tillage Impact on Crop Yield, Economic Return, and Soil Health of Continuous Corn Cropping System Under Furrow Irrigation
Corn is an important component of agricultural systems in Colorado. Conventional tillage such as moldboard plowing is still extensively used by growers in western Colorado. Conservation tillage, the practice of keeping the soil surface covered by crop residues to at least 30%, offers the potential to sequester carbon, enhance soil organic matter, and reduce erosion. The water resources objective of this study is to understand soil moisture differences (using neutron probe) and evapotranspiration rates under different minimum tillage conditions, including tillage retention (flailed, residue remaining), grazed residue and baled residue.
COLLABORATORS: Perry Cabot, Reza Keshavarz
Mechanical Control of Wild Flood Irrigation as a Labor Saving Initiative
The WCRC-Fruita has been in collaboration with the Upper Gunnison Trout Unlimited and the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District to develop a control gate check that is signaled by a sensor/timer, which can open and evacuate water from a flooded irrigation set. This technology would be a possible replacement for the current system of “tarping” where irrigators force detention in their pastures by damming and blocking water along grass swales. These tarps must then be manually removed and adjusted, costing time and effort.
COLLABORATORS: Perry Cabot, Jesse Kruthaupt (TU), Kelly Cox (inventor)
Development of Information and Recommendations for Water-Efficient Urban Landscapes
The WCRC-Fruita has a demonstration landscape used for evaluating sub-optimal, optimal and excessive irrigation of various Plant Select® landscape varieties. These plants were selected for their local commercial availability, aesthetic appeal and drought tolerance. Plants grown in this system include Kannah Creek Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. aureum ‘Psdowns’) , Graham’s Sage (Salvia microphylla), Silverton® Bluemat Penstemon (Penstemon linariodes var. coloradoensis), Pikes Peak Purple® Penstemon (Penstemon x mexicali ‘P007S’) and Red Mountain® Flame Iceplant (Delosperma dyeri ‘Psdold’).
COLLABORATORS: Perry Cabot, Susan Carter, Seth Urbanowitz
Establishment of Beneficial Insect Habitat for Edge-of-Field Buffer Zones
One of our smaller fields is dedicated to several seed mixes for growing beneficial insect habitats. The purpose of this study is to evaluate opportunities for producers to grow refuge areas in field border and buffer areas where beneficial insects may find habitats. Seed mixes grown in this system include a Wildlife Demo Mix provided by Southwest Seed (Dolores, CO) and a Native Colorado Mixture (CONA), Super-Short Mixture (SSMX) and Tall Prairie Flower Mixture (TAPR) from Applewood Seed Company (Arvada, CO).
COLLABORATORS: Perry Cabot, Meredith Schrader, Seth Urbanowitz
Master Gardeners and LISA Kit
Arid climates like we have in Colorado require us to learn more about our lawns and how to water them. The Mesa County Extension office and the WCRC-Fruita have LISA toolkit to help you use your water more efficiently when irrigating your lawn. Landscape irrigation audits have been around for several years, however professional audits can be costly. For this reason, CSU Extension developed the LISA toolkit for homeowners to take action against irrigation practices that can lead to over or under watering of lawns. The LISA toolkit has all the necessary tools (catch cans, timers, pressure meters, etc.) you will need to measure the water application rates for your lawn irrigation system at home. The toolkit is designed to be used for lawns that are irrigated using sprinkler systems. Once you are finished with you audit, you can visit www.lisa-audit.colostate.edu to access additional resources and turn your lawn irrigation data into a customized irrigation schedule.
COLLABORATORS: Perry Cabot, Meredith Schrader, Seth Urbanowitz
Cabot, P.E., B.J. Osborn, J.P. Schneekloth and T.K. Gates. In Review. Irrigation Water Flow Measurement. CSU Technical Bulletin.
Cabot, P.E., T.A. Bauder and D.A Dean. In Review. Algae Management in Commercial and Residential Ponds. CSU Technical Bulletin.
Cabot, P.E.. B.J. Osborn, J.P. Schneekloth and R.W. Waskom. In Review. Water Allotments and Water Shares on Colorado Land. CSU Extension Fact Sheet.
Gautam, S., P.E. Cabot, and J.L. Chávez. In Review. Multispectral Remote Sensing to Estimate Crop Coefficients and Evapotranspiration Rates of Grass Hay/Pastures in Western Colorado. Irrigation Science.
Cabot, P.E., J. Brummer, S. Gautam, L. Jones and N. Hansen. 2017. Benefits and Impacts of Partial Season Irrigation on Alfalfa Production. Proceedings of the 2017 Western Alfalfa & Forage Symposium. Nov. 28-30, Reno, NV.
Lakshminarayanan, A., D. Olsen and P.E. Cabot. 2017. Effects of triglyceride gasoline blends on combustion and emissions in a common rail direct injection diesel engine. International Journal of Engine Research.
Cabot, P.E., C.C. Olson, R.M. Waskom and K.G. Rein. 2016. Rainwater Collection in Colorado. CSU Extension Fact Sheet 6.707.
Coleman, C., J.R. Poppleton, P.E. Cabot, J. Clary, K. Fefes, B. O’Brien, H. Piza and R. Waskom. 2016. Citizen’s Guide to Water Conservation. Denver, Colorado: Colorado Foundation for Water Education.
Drenth, A.C., K. Denef, P.E. Cabot, and D. B. Olsen. 2015. Evaluation of Industrial Corn Oil as an On-Farm Biofuel Feedstock. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 31(5): 683-693.
Lakshminarayanan, A. D.B. Olsen and P.E. Cabot. 2014. Performance and Emission Evaluation of Triglyceride-Gasoline Blends in Agricultural Compression Ignition Engines. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 30(4): 523-534.
Drenth, A., D.B. Olsen, P.E. Cabot and J.J. Johnson. 2014. Compression ignition engine performance and emission evaluation of industrial oilseed biofuel feedstocks camelina, carinata, and pennycress across three fuel pathways. Fuel. 136: 143-155.
- Brummer, J. 2015. Agronomic Responses to Partial and Full Season Fallowing of Alfalfa and Grass Hayfields. Colorado Water Institute Advisory Meeting. November 13, 2015. Denver, CO
- Cabot, P. 2018. Measuring Consumptive Use for Alfalfa and Grass Hayfields Using Reflectance-Based Methods at Ground Surface. Water Bank Workgroup. November 2, 2018: Grand Junction, CO
- Cabot, P. 2019. Project Results: No Chico Brush 2018 Sweet Corn Evaluation. NCB Growers Meeting. February 4, 2019. Delta, CO