Irrigation Water Management Laboratory

The laboratory is located at West Central Research, Education and Extension Center in North Platte. We are committed to supporting producers of West Central Nebraska to be better stewards of the environment by offering them training and knowledge through extension and research on how to efficiently and effectively utilize limited allocated water for irrigation from Natural Resource Districts. Our overarching goal is to illustrate the relevance of scientific knowledge and best irrigation water management practices (such as use of sensor technologies) in improving water use efficiencies and conserving water quality and quantity from the Ogallala Aquifer. Our focus is to demonstrate and recommend use of better irrigation scheduling tools as well as irrigation management strategies to ensure water savings, reduce seasonal total water withdrawals and energy costs, and optimize irrigation amounts to increase crop yields and minimize nutrient leaching in groundwater sources. The lab collaborates with producers, UNL research scientists, specialists, and extension educators as well as with collaborators from different institutions in the United States.

The lab continues to conduct different research and extension activities including:

  • On-farm experiential extension program where producers compete as well as learn from each other on how to improve their management decisions and become better water and nitrogen efficient users as well as being more profitable (for more information check the Testing Ag Performance Solutions-(TAPS) website -
  • Irrigation workshops about techniques and tools to use in irrigation scheduling
  • Research on sensor-based irrigation scheduling techniques particularly using thermal infrared thermometers (IRTs) and soil moisture sensors
  • Precision irrigation water management using sensors mounted on movable platforms such as a high clearance sensing tractor
  • Evaluating irrigation scheduling methods both conventional (Crop Evapotranspiration and soil water balance models) and newer crop water stress monitoring techniques using infrared thermometry measurements
  • Deficit irrigation water management strategies under conventional and drought tolerant maize hybrids and different irrigation systems including sprinkler and sub-surface drip irrigation systems
  • Variable rate irrigation and fertigation with sprinkler  and sub-surface drip irrigation systems
  • Sensor-based fertigation and nitrate leaching studies

sub surface drip        center pivot  

Sub-surface drip irrigation systems                                                                                               Center-pivot sprinkler system