Efficient Irrigation

Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture brings the Illinois Soybean Association together with a diverse group of grower organizations; agribusinesses; food, beverage, restaurant, and retail companies; conservation groups; universities; and public sector partners to create opportunities across the agricultural supply chain for continuous improvement in productivity, environmental quality and human well-being. As a member of Field to Market, ISA supports sustainability measurement tools to help farmers and the supply chain better understand and assess performance at the field, local, state, and national levels. 

Water use is a key Field to Market measurement, since water is an important limiting factor for crop production. Without an adequate and timely water supply, crop yields are lower and highly variable across years. In many regions of the country, rainfall does not occur at the right time for optimum plant growth and crop yield. Irrigation allows producers to provide water to achieve high and stable yields. Agriculture is the single largest consumptive user of water in the U.S. and is consequently the sector most vulnerable to changes in weather and climate and to depletion of groundwater resources. Water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource due to greater demands associated with population growth, urbanization and accessibility. 

Field to Market’s Irrigation Water Use indicator assesses the overall efficiency of irrigation water applied in terms of the incremental improvement it produces in crop yield. This indicator is designed to consider the water factor most directly under the control of the producer—the efficiency of water supplied through irrigation. The indicator does not include a measure of water use efficiency from precipitation or on non-irrigated cropland, nor does it reflect the source of the water used for irrigation. 

The 2016 National Indicators Report from Field to Market showed improvements in irrigation water use per bushel for U.S. soybeans grown from 1980 to 2015. Soybean growers decreased irrigation water use per bushel by 32 percent during the measurement period.1

As water becomes more scarce and precipitation more variable and uncertain, improvements in irrigation water use efficiency will be critical to maintain production and contribute to conservation solutions in water-stressed regions.

Find more information at: https://fieldtomarket.org/national-indicators-report-2016/irrigation-water-use/

1Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, 2016. Environmental and Socioeconomic Indicators for Measuring Outcomes of On Farm Agricultural Production in the United States (Third Edition). ISBN: 978-0-692-81902-9