The Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project update

From The North Platte Telegraph (George Haws):

The Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project brings together 70 researchers, along with specialists and students based at seven universities and two USDA research locations…

OWCAP involves research, demonstration and education. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Water Resources Field Laboratory near Brule is one of the research sites.

The TAPS competition at North Platte is also part of OWCAP. TAPS stands for Testing Ag Performance Solutions. A highly respected and innovative program, TAPS is made up of miniature corn and grain sorghum “farms,” where individuals and teams make decisions such as when and how much to irrigate, and how much nitrogen fertilizer to use. Participants earn awards for efficiency and profitability.

UNL water management specialist Daran Rudnick is an active member of the OWCAP research team. He worked with other educators at the West Central Research and Extension Center at North Platte to implement TAPS three years ago.

OWCAP is about identifying and promoting practices that conserve water and prevent water pollution, said OWCAP Manager Amy Kremen, who is also a water expert at Colorado State University.

Sharing ideas is an important part of OWCAP. For example, TAPS is now expanding in coordination with Oklahoma State University to offer a sprinkler-irrigated corn competition at Guymon, Oklahoma, this year.

OWCAP participants in Texas have something to share, too. The Natural Resources Conservation Service and North Plains Groundwater Conservation District there have implemented a master irrigator program that involves intensive training and certification. Now other states are considering implementing similar programs, Paulman said. Programs like that help increase adoption of water conserving practices, he said.

OWCAP has also resulted in research projects that each span three or more states, Kremen said. That “helps us to draw broader conclusions” about the potential of water conservation practices.

Those practices include making effective use of soil moisture sensors and aerial photography to inform irrigation and fertilizer decisions, carefully timing irrigation based on crop growth stages, using university-supported irrigation scheduling tools, and transitioning successfully to dryland…

OWCAP has also resulted in publication of over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and other reports, which are available at ogallalawater.org.

Kremen said the OWCAP team is on track to complete its USDA-NIFA funded work within the next two years. Team members are the lead organizers for a summit to take place in early 2020 in Amarillo, Texas. There, water management leaders from throughout the region will share their experiences and findings in hopes of benefiting agricultural producers and communities throughout the region.

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