Sprinkler vs. Flood Irrigation in Traditional Rice Production Regions of Southeast Texas
Sprinkler irrigation of rice (Oryza sativa L.) could conserve water and lower production costs. Tests were conducted for 3 yr (1982–1984) on a Beaumont clay soil (Entic Pelludert) to evaluate 12 rice cultivars under flood and three levels of sprinkler irrigation. Plant growth (height), plant development (days to heading and harvest), yield, yield components, and quality were monitored. Irrigation treatments were main plots and cultivars were subplots. Irrigation treatments 100, 50, and 25 replaced 100, 50, and 25% of estimated evapotranspiration (ETe). Total water applied was 931 mm (1982), 1171 mm (1983), and 1061 mm (1984) for Treatment 100. These applications exceeded the ETe of flooded rice by 331 to 571 mm. Compared to flood irrigation, sprinkler treatments reduced plant height by 0.09 to 0.28 m. Days to heading varied by cultivar and irrigation treatment while days to harvest was not affected by the irrigation treatments. Milled grain was not influenced by irrigation. Compared to the average yield for flood irrigation, sprinkler irrigation reduced yield over 20% with Treatment 100 and key cultivar yields were reduced 28%. Yield loss from Treatment 100 could not be attributed to weeds, diseases, or water availability. Yield loss was due to reduced florets/panicle and reduced fertile florets. With a yield differential in excess of 20%, sprinkler irrigation does not appear to be a viable alternative to conventional flood irrigation in traditional rice-growing areas.
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