Kansas | Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station | North Central Region
SDI technology combats water constraints with less water and higher crop yields compared to traditional irrigation methods.
Research on subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) began in 1989 with an initiative to increase crop success across the Great Plains region while maintaining water resources, specifically that of the Ogallala Aquifer in the High Plains Aquifer System. Directed by researchers at the Kansas State University Northwest Research-Extension Center in Colby, Kansas, this project aims to increase water conservation, maintain water quality, and further develop SDI technology is this area of the U.S The expedited depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer has been the driving force behind this and other irrigation technology research. This aquifer sources about 27 percent of the irrigated land in the U.S. Since 1940 when large-scale irrigation began, it has been estimated that water levels have declined by more than 100 feet in parts of Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. More than 82 percent of the population in the Central Great Plains region relies on the aquifer for groundwater, including the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. If irrigation trends continue at their current rates, the Ogallala Aquifer saturation levels could decrease by 69 percent in the next 50 years. A SDI system is an underground drip-line that concentrates water output at the roots of the plant, which greatly reduces water and sediment runoff. This method uses an average of 25 percent less irrigation water than traditional irrigation techniques and increases crop yields and soil nitrogen content. Interest in this research has a global reach as farmers search for alternative irrigation techniques that reduce water waste. As the world population grows, conservation of natural resources is a priority for farmers and consumers alike.