Water and Soil Management for Beans


Objective 1: Evaluate the potential benefits of drip irrigation and reduced tillage systems, in comparison to conventional tillage and furrow irrigation
Objective 2: Develop grower guidelines for effective irrigation water application in garden beans grown under different tillage systems
Objective 3: Conduct extension outreach

  • Dr. Olga Walsh, Research Associate Professor, Extension Specialist, Cropping Systems Agronomy, University of Idaho, Parma R&E Center
  • Dr. Howard Neibling, Associate Professor, Extension Specialist - Water Management Engineer, University of Idaho, Kimberly R&E Center
  • Dr. Xi Liang, Assistant Professor, Cropping Systems Agronomy, University of Idaho, Aberdeen R&E Center

  • Idaho is one of the leading states in garden bean production in the U.S. Most of the garden beans are produced in the Magic (8,000 ac) and Treasure Valley (>1,500 ac) regions of Idaho. Beans are a valuable rotational crop in Idaho and they are an excellent crop to plant in years when water inputs will be limited. Interest in garden beans is increasing among Idaho growers. There has been very little research conducted on effective water and soil management for garden beans in Idaho and the University of Idaho does not have a recommendation for effective irrigation water application for garden beans produced in various tillage systems. The Idaho Bean Commission has approached University of Idaho to collect additional data to generate production recommendations on water and soil management in garden beans and conduct extended extension outreach activities to enhance grower awareness and adoption of water and soil conservation practices.
  • In cooperation with the Idaho Bean Commission, plant and soil scientists and water management engineer at the University of Idaho will conduct two field experiments to develop sustainable water and soil conservation strategies for garden bean production. The study will focus on the effects of water management using drip irrigation versus furrow irrigation in two tillage systems: conventional and strip tillage. Crop growth, bean yield and quality will be measured in response to these water and soil management practices. These experiments will be conducted at two locations in southwestern and southcentral Idaho and repeated over two years.
  • Water conservation and soil quality are taking the center stage as bean growers are focusing on sustainable and efficient production practices. As much as 60% of worldwide fresh water supply is used to irrigate crops; Idaho is ranked the fifth in the United States in irrigation water use. Drip irrigation ensures adequate soil moisture in the root zone and minimizes water loss due to runoff, wind drift and evaporation. With proper irrigation scheduling, the water application efficiency for drip irrigation can exceed 90%, compared to only 30-35% for furrow irrigation. Intensive tillage has resulted in poor soil quality, such as increased soil compaction and diminished soil microbial population. Strip-tillage and direct seeding (no-tillage), in combination with effective and efficient irrigation programs, has a potential for minimizing soil disturbance, reducing soil moisture loss, and substantial savings in terms of water, labor, fuel, and energy in bean production.

1. Our preliminary results indicated that utilizing drip irrigation may deliver substantial water savings.2. Inconclusive results on bean yield performance under various treatments indicates that the water use efficiency and its’ effect on garden bean growth may be highly influenced by environmental conditions during the crop growth. 3. Grower survey at the annual cropping schools hosted in Caldwell: a. 95% of attendees reported receiving new valuable information that they can readily use in their farming operations; 65% of growers indicated their plans to share the information with family and fellow growers; b. the most positive comments were associated with subsurface drip irrigation and most questions from growers focused on water savings and yield response to various irrigation types. 4. The interest among farmers has also been evident by the large number of questions at the Idaho Direct Seed Workshops conducted each spring.

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