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Abstract

Recent declines in irrigated acres in the High Plains and shifts to crops which use less water are likely to continue, with an eventual return to dryland production in many regions. Declining groundwater levels and depletion of the Ogallala aquifer are secondary causes of this decline. Primary causes are high irrigation costs and low profitability of irrigated crops relative to dryland crops produced within and outside the region. Continued low commodity prices will speed the transition to dryland production as many current irrigators are unable to replace fully depreciated irrigation systems. Adoption of new technology will slow but not reverse the reduction in irrigated production.

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