FARM: Effective water management practices for alfalfa – California News

FARM: Effective water management practices for alfalfa – California News

In California, alfalfa used to be the largest agricultural water user due to its high acreage and long growing season. Alfalfa accounts for about 30 percent of the crops grown, and is the dominant water user in the Imperial Valley. Although alfalfa is considered to have high seasonal water use, it is one of the most water-efficient crops due to its high yield, perennial nature, deep roots, and the fact that the entire above-ground portion is harvested as an economic product. Despite the advantages of alfalfa with regards to water, the improvement of water-use efficiency through effective water management practices are highly recommended. Perhaps, it can be one of the reliable solutions for the resiliency of agricultural production under an increasing water-use competition in the low desert region.

It is more difficult to schedule irrigations for alfalfa than other crops because alfalfa is harvested multiple times per season. Irrigation water cannot be applied too close to a cutting and fields cannot be irrigated while the alfalfa is curing until the hay is removed from field. Depending on soil type and irrigation practices, there is typically a six- to even 20-day period during which fields cannot…

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