IIC announces $1 million for new research to advance irrigation management


The Irrigation Innovation Consortium, a collaboration between Colorado State University and other land-grant universities and industry to accelerate the development and adoption of water- and energy-efficient irrigation technology, has selected four new research projects to begin this summer.

Through its annual competitive research calls, IIC encourages private and public entities to combine their expertise to accelerate the development and application of new knowledge and technologies to benefit the irrigation sector and society. Funds and partner match committed to new research in this competitive project cycle total $1.05 million. IIC administers this research grant program by leveraging a $5 million award from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research that is matched with non-federal contributions from industry and other partners.

Wide-ranging research

These projects closely fit combinations of IIC research priorities established based on interviews and a survey the consortium conducted in 2021 with irrigation sector stakeholders: 

  • Evaluating and improving irrigation technologies and recommendations 
  • Improving integration of irrigation tools and strategies 
  • Data synthesis to inform irrigation decision making 
  • Clarifying water use benchmarks, targets and protocols 
  • Quantifying potential benefits (biophysical, practical, economic) of advanced irrigation management

“This year’s projects are each highly applied and have effective outreach plans to encourage adoption of tools and research insights,” IIC Executive Director Tim Martin said. “As a result, we are looking forward to meaningful research results for irrigators, water managers and industry partners that will encourage broader adoption of advanced irrigation tools and strategies.” 

 “These projects encompass a wide range of important research that will be highly beneficial to stakeholders,” said Kathy Boomer, FFAR scientific program director. “We are excited about the diverse collaborations and their potential for pioneering breakthroughs that will go far in advancing sustainable irrigation and water management.”

Selected projects

Using the Irrigation-Energy Linkage to Estimate Irrigation Water Delivery 

  • Principal Investigator: Amy Harsch, Nebraska Water Balance Alliance  
  • Industry Partner: Grower Information Services Coop 
  • Budget, including match:$195,852 

This project, which expands on work previously funded by the IIC, is focused on using electrical runtime data to accurately estimate water pumped for irrigation in real time. In addition to providing real-time field-level data on water use to farmers via a user-friendly dashboard tool, the team provides aggregated data to support local groundwater district and state government agency work on water resource modeling, water budgeting and policy development. The team aims to encourage shifts in awareness and practice related to irrigation management and to scale their impact by engaging with producers and district managers in two Nebraska water management districts.

Developing a data assimilation and integration tool for irrigation management technologies used by California Almond Growers 

  • Principal Investigator: Nicholas Bambach, University of California Davis 
  • Industry Partner: Almond Board of California  
  • Budget, including match: $291,380

This team will develop a dashboard interface for almond growers that will integrate information from various irrigation management tools producers are using to support critical irrigation decisions, with a strong focus on making remote sensing data actionable.

The team will engage with multiple industry partners whose tools will be able to plug into this interface, and will train Extension agents, farm advisors, government field staff and other irrigation stakeholders on how to use this dashboard.

Organizing and analyzing Testing Ag Performance Solutions program data, quantifying productivity and GHG outcomes for corn, grain sorghum, and cotton 

  • Principal Investigator: Daran Rudnick, University of Nebraska-Lincoln 
  • Budget, including match: $250,580

The Testing Ag Performance Solutions program, which is designed to reflect real-world on-farm conditions and circumstances, engages producers in annual competitions to demonstrate and expand their proficiency at managing and marketing commodity crops as efficiently and profitably as possible. The team will capitalize on the extensive data gathered over the last five years of the program, including on how growers’ use of decision support technologies affects production outcomes, to synthesize and distill a broad range of management implications and inform future research priorities.

Extension Outreach Tools to Improve Adoption of Irrigation Management Technologies in the Texas Panhandle  

  • Principal Investigator: David Parker, West Texas A&M University 
  • Industry Partners: Better Harvest Co., Providence Farm 
  • Budget, including match: $303,384

This team will develop a user-friendly tool to guide producers in the Texas Panhandle to distribute acres dedicated to irrigated and dryland crops as a strategy for managing declining groundwater resources more effectively and profitably. The team will work closely with crop consultants and producers to support their use of this tool in conjunction with using soil moisture sensors effectively.

About the consortium

The Irrigation Innovation Consortium, which is headquartered at Colorado State University, includes four other U.S. land-grant universities: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kansas State University, Texas A&M University, and California State University-Fresno. The consortium’s founding and sustaining industry partners are Aqua Engineering, Irrigation Association, JAIN Irrigation, LI-COR, Lindsay Corp., Northern Water, Valmont, Hunter Industries, Toro, Rubicon, Colorado Corn Growers Association, and Senniger Irrigation Inc.

About FFAR

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.