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Water + Energy Progress
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Richard Wenstrom, an Early Adopter and Innovator

6 years ago | Feb 05, 2014
By: Danny Rogers, Extension Agricultural Engineer with K-State Research and Extension

Richard Wenstrom farms in southern Edwards county of Kansas, an area where annual rainfall and sandy soils combine to make dryland farming a risky proposition but it is also an area underlain by the Big Bend Prairie portion of the High Plains aquifer. Richard understands the importance of water to agricultural crop production and the importance of water for other uses and the need to manage water for long term benefits.

I am not certain when I first met Richard, it was likely at an extension irrigation meeting. He was a regular at the Central Plains Irrigation Conference but it might have been a local meeting or a GMD meeting or an irrigation association gathering. Richard was interested in water technology, management and policy.

He was an early adopter and an innovator of improved irrigation management practices. He was one of the first large-scale irrigators that used soil-based irrigation scheduling techniques but was also an early adopter of climatic- or ET- based irrigation scheduling. Early ET-based scheduling required a dedicated individual as data collection and processing for the procedure was cumbersome. In the early 1990’s, the availability of weather data, already processed into an ET value, was greatly enhanced by the establishment of a weather station network in his area, and the availability of on-farm computing . He knew from experience that scheduling could help other farmers improve irrigation management and help alleviate developing water shortfalls in the area. Richard and others in the local irrigation association approached me and others at Kansas State University Extension and helped establish the South Central Kansas Irrigation Management Program. This program used farmer field demonstration sites to promote ET-based scheduling.This initial program eventually evolved into the state wide Mobile Irrigation Lab program and the widely used KanSched ET-based irrigation scheduling program.

Richard was also instrumental in helping establish the South Central Water Bank. One of the issues of water management in the area is the interaction of groundwater and surface water. Richard’s farm is in the Rattlesnake Creek headwaters. This creek is also connected with the Quivira National Wildlife refuge. One of the goals of the water bank was to develop a procedure for irrigators (and other water users) to transfer water from one user to another with special encouragements for water transfer away from the Rattlesnake Creek riparian corridor.



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