Root Water: on-farm irrigation management outreach
Root Water is a Coachella Valley Resource Conservation District (CVRCD) pilot project that is helping farmers from underserved communities in the Coachella Valley manage their use of water more efficiently and effectively. It is helping these farmers determine the most efficient irrigation management strategies for their specific crops on their specific soils. It is an on-farm extension project of shared investigation and of mutual teaching and learning between CVRCD, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and small-acreage Spanish speaking farmers in the Valley. The primary goal is to help participating farmers incorporate root water monitoring information in their decisions about irrigation frequency and duration.
Each farmer meets with a CVRCD irrigation outreach specialist on his or her farm a number of times during the one-year project duration. These on-farm visits are focused on a number of irrigation management issues including: identification and description of on-farm soil characteristics; investigation of water-soil-crop relationships; placement, maintenance and practical use of tensiometers; and, interpretation of tensiometer data. All of these issues are examined as they practically apply to the specific circumstances that each farmer faces on his or her farm.
Root Water monitoring
Tensiometers are the primary tools for root water monitoring in this project. Depending on soil types and crops, multiple sets of two or three tensiometers are strategically placed at various locations on each farm. Each tensiometer set includes at least one unit to measure irrigation water in the root zone of each crop. A second unit measures the excess irrigation water that percolates below the reach of plant roots. Participant farmers are monitoring and recording tensiometer data three times each week throughout the duration of the project. The readings provide a springboard for discussion and mutual teaching / learning about the variables that impact crop water use and the strategies for efficient irrigation and nutrient management on each farm.
Root Water is a pilot project. An evaluation component is integrated in the project design with the goal of improving irrigation management support for underserved farmers in any future project expansion. With funding, Root Water could be extended and expanded to support more small-acreage Coachella Valley farmers in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of their irrigation water use. Currently the Coachella Valley Resource Conservation District is exploring possible avenues of support for Root Water expansion.