Irrigation in North Dakota
Irrigation has always been considered an important part of the social and economic development of North Dakota. Irrigation allows consistent growth of long season crops (corn, alfalfa and potatoes), provides a consistent source of forage for animal agriculture and improves the economic viability of many farms.
At the present time there are about 290,000 acres of irrigated land in North Dakota where water management can be practiced throughout the growing season. This is slightly more than 1.1 percent of the total cultivated land in the state. Surface irrigation methods such as furrow, border and basin are used on about 35,000 acres and the rest have some type of sprinkler system.Over 250,000 acres are irrigated with center pivot sprinkler systems.
According to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) during the 2014 growing season, the predominant irrigated crops were corn (grain and silage) 105,000 acres; soybeans 62,000 acres; small grains (wheat, barley and oats) 28,000 acres; potatoes 23,500 acres; edible beans 14,200 acres; alfalfa and hay 13,700 acres; sugar beets 10,500 acres; sunflowers 1,400 acres; canola 2,500 acres; flax 1,200 acres; and onions 1,100 acres. Long term economic analysis indicates that one composite irrigated acre produces the same revenue as 4 dryland acres in cash returns to the farmer before government payments.
Irrigated land is scattered across the state usually located over shallow aquifers. The most common irrigated soils are sandy loams and loamy sands. Improper irrigation can affect the water quality (and quantity) of water in these shallow aquifers. Therefore irrigation water management along with nutrient management are very important.