UI Extension Water Management Engineer Neibling Shares in National Research Award
MOSCOW – Howard Neibling, Kimberly-based University of Idaho Extension irrigation management engineer, works to improve irrigation efficiency on Idaho’s farms and ranches.
Work by Neibling and his colleagues on the 20-state project Microirrigation for Sustainable Water Use or W-2128 won the 2014 Experiment Station Section Excellence in Multistate Research Award. The award from the Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy was presented during the recent Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities meeting.
Neibling’s research on using microirrigation to boost corn silage production while reducing the amount of water required has focused on fields near Kuna. That work showed microirrigation, which uses tubing to apply water directly to the soil at the crop’s roots, boosted production over center pivot irrigation. Yield increased to 32 tons per acre from 28 tons. The water required dropped by 10 to 15 percent.
Neibling’s work on irrigating corn for silage, which is the stalks chopped and stored while green, will continue with other strategies. Large numbers of burrowing rodents, mostly pocket gophers, from surrounding public lands undermined the use of buried lines because the animals chewed holes in them.
The new strategy Neibling plans to pursue is the use of cheaper plastic tape products that will be used for a cropping season, then recycled.
The advantage for dairy operators and those growing feed for them is the tape can be applied to irregularly-shaped fields that are not suitable for center pivot irrigation. Tape can also be used on the corners of pivot-irrigated fields that normally produce less becausethey can be difficult to water.
Dairy farmers can benefit economically by improving production on fields closer to their operations and reducing haul costs.
Neibling has worked on the multi-state project since he joined the UI faculty 22 years ago. The project was established in 1974.
Neibling’s work helps ranchers improve water-use efficiency on irrigated pastures, hay fields and all of the state’s irrigated crops. He works with the Anheuser-Busch global sustainability campaign by helping barley growers increase water use efficiency.
His current barley project focuses on helping growers near Osgood, Ririe and Grace better use weather data and new technology for irrigation scheduling. Anheuser-Busch recently funded the installation of six new AgriMet high-tech weather stations in southern Idaho to aid growers.