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Agricultural News

Land Grants in the Region to Study Ag Sustainability in the Eight States that Sit on Top of the Ogallala Aquifer

Thu, 24 Mar 2016 05:04:15 CDT

Land Grants in the Region to Study Ag Sustainability in the Eight States that Sit on Top of the Ogallala Aquifer For more than 80 years, the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest freshwater aquifer in the world, has been the main source of agricultural and public water for the Texas Panhandle, western Oklahoma, western Kansas and parts of five other states in the Great Plains.

Now, researchers from the leading land grant schools in the region will play an important role within a U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture-funded university consortium to address agricultural sustainability on the aquifer. More than 90 percent of the water pumped from the Ogallala Aquifer is used for irrigated agriculture.

The consortium, led by Colorado State University and includes Oklahoma State University, Kansas State University and five other universities as well as USDA's Agricultural Research Service, has been awarded a USDA Water for Agriculture Challenge Area Coordinated Agriculture Project grant that will provide $10 million over four years for innovative research and extension activities to address water challenges in the Ogallala Aquifer region.

According to the research grant proposal, "The Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world, supports 30% of U.S. crop and animal production, increases agricultural production by more than $12 billion annually, and impacts global food supplies. However, much of the Ogallala is rapidly declining and climate change will only compound this challenge. Our long-term goal is to optimize use of groundwater in the Ogallala Aquifer Region (OAR) to sustain food production systems, rural communities and ecosystem services."

The consortium will study how agriculture within the region can adapt to declining water levels in the Ogallala Aquifer and improve water use efficiency, said Kansas State University team coordinator Chuck Rice, university distinguished professor of agronomy. Equally important, researchers will study the social and economic framework of the region to determine the most effective ways to increase adoption of the best adaptive strategies available.

"Effective outreach efforts will be the key to communicating our findings to all those within the Ogallala Aquifer region," Rice said. "We will work hard to find the best possible strategies for adapting to likely future conditions involving declining water availability and climatic changes, but we then have to make sure our findings are understood by those living and working in this important agricultural region."

In addition to the lead institution Colorado State University, other institutions involved in this project include the University of Nebraska, Lincoln; Oklahoma State University; Kansas State University; New Mexico State University; Texas Tech University' West Texas A&M University; Texas A&M AgriLife; and the USDA-Agricultural Research Service.



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