AMARILLO – Three years of a research study to determine if 200 bushels of corn can be produced with a maximum of 12 inches of added irrigation water has one conclusion – not in normal or lower-than-average rainfall years.
Texas A&M AgriLife Research has completed a limited-irrigation 12-200 corn production assessment study at the North Plains Research Field near Etter in conjunction with the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District in Dumas.
The study’s purpose was to evaluate the field-based potential of producing 200 bushels of grain corn using only 12 pumped inches of irrigation water per acre, said Thomas Marek of Amarillo, AgriLife Research irrigation engineer and North Plains Research Field superintendent.
“We used the best management techniques we knew at the time to try to accomplish the targeted production goal,” Marek said.
The multi-year effort was a team approach involving support from AgriLife Research, the North Plains water district, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service water management unit at Bushland, the Ogallala Aquifer Program and the Texas Corn Producers Board.
“We determined the probability of receiving the 10.5 inches of rainfall during the growing season needed to combine with the 12 inches of irrigation water to meet the crop’s needs for a 200-bushel per acre production is unlikely,” Marek said.
Implementing a rigid water reduction measure to only 12 inches could have significant economic impact to producers, he said. The probability of receiving the necessary rainfall to supplement that irrigation and stored soil-profile water is less than 50 percent.
“We wanted to collect this data so we could evaluate the feasibility of sustainable production and to address the economics of the production practice for producers, in case this effort was put into regulation,” Marek said.
A partial budget analysis showed that on a 125-acre corn field, the estimated loss in net returns would be $2,390 in the best-case scenario. That is when only the 25 bushels per acre reduction is considered from full irrigation yields of 225 bushels per acre to the limited 200 bushels per acre.
But if the producer applied the typical 22 inches of irrigation water and received the normal rainfall, production would be 250 bushels per acre. This would mean the potential loss could be as much as $21,450 for a 125-acre circle.
If the rain doesn’t materialize, as in two of the past three years, yields are significantly reduced by the limit of 12 inches of irrigation water, and the economic loss could be tremendous for the corn producer, Marek said.