Western U.S. farmers know irrigation is necessary for a substantial yield. But a common mistake farmers can make toward the end of the season is making one last application when the soil profile already has enough water to finish the crop. A good rule of thumb is to allow the crop to draw existing water in the top 4 feet of the field down to 40% of its capacity, according to Steve Melvin from the University of Nebraska. This rule has been proven not to sacrifice yields.

The university encourages irrigators to use more stored soil water starting in August and into September as the crop matures. Irrigators should keep the available soil water level above the 50% depletion level throughout the primary growing season, but that threshold can push 60% toward the end of the season. The results include pump savings and staying within water allocation limits, which are critical during ongoing drought conditions.

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