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Irrigation Management & Agronomy

Irrigation is the single most expensive component of agricultural production in Kern County. Water costs range from $40 to $190 per ac/ft depending on irrigation district and elevation. Water use for crops varies from 1.5 ac-ft/ac for winter grain to more than 4 ac-ft/ac for alfalfa. Average irrigated crop land is about 800,000 acres requiring 2 to 2.3 million ac-ft of water per year. Two areas of focus are: 1. Irrigation system management, which includes scheduling, optimal system design and maintenance, and 2. salinity/fertility management, which includes reclaiming and improving soil structure and nutrient availability.

Examples of Research and Teaching Projects:

? Cover crops have improved water use and infiltration rate on sealing soils.

? Improved irrigation scheduling on sealing soils has resulted in yield increases of 100 to 200% over the state average for blackeye peas.

? Irrigation scheduling programs and crop water use data have been developed for most Kern County crops.

? Irrigation systems have been compared including sprinkler vs. drip irrigation in potatoes, narrow vs. standard lateral spacings in sprinkler irrigated carrots, and drip vs. micro sprinklers in pistachios.

? Reuse of marginally saline drain water in pistachios for irrigation has been shown feasible.

? Agronomy programs provide information on varieties, production practices, crop rotation, fertility, and pest management for common field crops.

? The impact of soil amendments including synthetic fertilizers, biosolids and various classes of compost are tested to determine their short- and long-term benefits to soil structure, disease development and environmental impacts. In addition, Kern County participates in many valley-wide nutrient studies.