What is in this article?:
- West Side Research and Extension Center takes big hit because of zero-percent water allocation
- Almond Board of California scrambles to find new site for large variety-trial project
Nutrient management trials wrecked by lack of irrigation water
Robert Hutmacher runs the University of California's West Side Research and Extension Center. The UC cotton specialist says water allocation cuts to the center will force an overall 25 percent reduction in water availability, along with the ability to conduct timely and important research for California growers.
Great place for drought research
Ironically the location of the WSREC in California’s San Joaquin Valley is a near-perfect spot for drought-related research given the region’s dry climate. A normal season can bring five inches of rain to the center, whereas in drought years that number may be closer to an inch, Hutmacher said.
“If you’re trying to do drought research where you have ultimate control over how much water is available in any year this is one of the best places in the world to do that kind of work,” Hutmacher said. “You can do drought work in Kansas or Texas but you always have the chance that a thunderstorm could come in and relieve the drought when you don’t want it to from a research standpoint.
“Our opportunities to do drought-related research, artificial or otherwise, are always there in the San Joaquin Valley,” he continued. “It’s one of the normal attributes of this place. I think it’s part of the reason why there’s an interest in water-related research here any year.”
The lack of irrigation water to the research center means that Hutmacher had to tell researchers to cut back 25 percent on their use of water for the growing season. While he won’t dictate what projects researchers focus on and what do drop, the result is the same: some research projects won’t be done at the location.
“We try not to micromanage how they meet the target reduction in water,” Hutmacher said.
“I can speak for myself: I have about a half dozen cotton projects and a sorghum project, along with a sesame project and a couple of other things I’m working on,” he continued. “I’m downsizing most of them to the greatest degree I can and I’m going to cancel one of them.”