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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

September 5, 2023

Kansas Irrigation Trend Updated to Recent Years

Submitted by Jonathan Aguilar

Using data primarily from irrigators submitting their water use reports to the Division of Water Resources, Kansas Irrigation Trends (MF 2849) was recently updated to reflect up to 2021 data. Additional data used was from the Kansas Department of Agriculture's Kansas Farm Facts.

The reported number of irrigated acres in Kansas has been relatively stable for several decades but in actuality, there has been a loss of irrigated acres in the west (Region 1) and an increase of irrigated acres in central (Region 2) and eastern (Region 3) Kansas. Irrigation system types have changed over time, switching from predominately surface flood irrigation to sprinkler irrigation, which is predominately center pivots. 

The total yearly amount of irrigation water diverted in Kansas is trending down with several factors contributing including, conversion to more efficient systems, decline in water table levels, better tillage practices, and precipitation.

Irrigated corn production occurs on over one-half of all irrigated acres in Kansas, with the highest acreage peak occurring in 2019. Other minor crops that showed notable increases in acreage are cotton, pasture and triticale. 

The four major seed crops (i.e. corn, soybean, grain sorghum, and wheat) grown in Kansas have had upward trends in yield. The Kansas corn yield trend has had the most dramatic increase for both irrigated and dryland production, with irrigated corn yield improvements of approximately 2.0 bushels per acre for the period of record, which is over twice the dryland rate of 0.91 bushels per acre. However, the yield increase for irrigated corn appears to be flattening in recent years.

Irrigation water use efficiency (IWUE) is the yield of a crop divided by the amount of irrigation water applied. Corn IWUE has increased over the period of record by a value of 0.14 bushels per inch per year.