University of Nebraska-Lincoln Helping Farmers Save Enough Water to Double Nebraska’s Largest Lake

When Dr. Suat Irmak joined the faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2003, he conducted a comprehensive needs assessment to determine what issues he should tackle. The depletion of the Ogallala aquifer, a vast underground reservoir that feeds most of Nebraska’s farms, was at the top of the list.

He researched and identified advanced technologies to improve farm productivity while conserving water and energy. These technologies have been applied in over 1.7 million acres of irrigated croplands across Nebraska.

Dr. Irmak has been taking his team’s research to a network of farmers created through direct outreach. In 2005, the Nebraska Agricultural Water Management Network started with just 15 farmers. Today, it is up to 1,400. Through this network, farmers have embraced conservation principles and technologies, reducing irrigation by more than two inches per acre each growing season.

We work with farmers to learn about realworld issues. Sharing our results for adoption is as important as the research itself.

– Dr. Suat Irmak

Nebraska’s use of irrigation management technology has also increased. The state now ranks second nationally in deploying these innovations. The network also increased the scientific literacy of Nebraska’s agricultural community, helping them understand, for example, how changes in climate variables impact their fields.  

With no end to water worries in sight, Dr. Irmak will continue to discover and propagate new ways to save.

Retaking The Field Volume 1 “Retaking the Field: The Case for a Surge in Agricultural Research” is a collaborative report from 13 partnering universities and the SoAR Foundation. The report provides a compelling case to policymakers and the public for increased federal agricultural research funding by celebrating the advances and exploring the untapped potential of the agriculture and food sciences. View The Issue
Retaking the Field Volume 1: The Case for a Surge in Agricultural Research Click to download report

More Stories from the community

Improving Irrigation: Developing sensors to measure thirst in plants

Dr. Stroock and his team are developing sensors to detect the thirst of apple trees in order to more precisely irrigate orchards. Instead of using traditional techniques to estimate water needs through weather and soil conditions, researchers are asking the plant directly by gathering continuous data through sensors embedded in tree trunks.

Read More
Helping Hearts: Discovering the Impacts of Flavonoids and Interpersonal Gut Variations to Improve Cardiovascular Health

The American Heart Association notes a recent study that showed millions of people worldwide could prevent early deaths and disability from heart disease by eating more fruits and vegetables. Some health benefits associated with this diet are derived from pigments present in plants called flavonoids. Dr. Federico Rey and his team studies how flavanoids can improve human health.

Read More