UA Researcher Lands Grant to Study Irrigation in the Arkansas Delta
Benjamin Runkle, professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at the UA in Fayetteville received a 3-year, $330,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. The purpose of the research is to learn more about how different irrigation strategies can reduce the amount of water needed for rice production.
Most of the water that farmers use to irrigate their crops in Arkansas comes from groundwater. But, it’s well known that the groundwater supply won’t last at the current rate of withdrawal, so farmers and researchers are searching for ways to reduce how much water they pull from the ground.
At the same time, farmers can’t afford to take a loss in crop yield, or how many pounds of food they produce per acre. Runkle and his team will address how to reduce water needs and at the same time, maintain rice yields for the producer.
Another component of Runkle’s research is about greenhouse gas emissions. Rice production is different from most other crops because it’s grown in flooded conditions, which can influence greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.
Some irrigation strategies, such as alternate wetting and drying, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is great for Arkansas producers who can adopt such a strategy because they could receive payments for carbon credits.
The research findings will be shared with producers and state water managers through demonstration events, conferences, and news outlets through the Arkansas Water Resources Center (AWRC) and other organizations.
Runkle’s research team includes Brian Haggard, AWRC Director and professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at the UA; Kosana Suvočarev, post-doctoral research scientist with Runkle; and USDA-Agricultural Research Service researchers Michele Reba, Arlene Adviento-Borbe, and Joseph Massey.
To learn more about Runkle’s research, visit his website at https://sites.uark.edu/brrunkle/.