From: Emily Fredrix, Associated Press
Published April 29, 2005 12:00 AM

Professors Develop Spreadsheet to Help Farmers Allocate Water Supplies

OMAHA, Neb. — Scholars think tweaking variables on a spreadsheet could help those who work the land cope with a drought that just won't go away.

Farmers in about two dozen of the Nebraska's 93 counties can now use the Water Optimizer to calculate how much a crop will yield given certain conditions, such as temperature, soil type and irrigation levels.

The goal of the spreadsheet, developed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is to put farmers in a position of deciding how best to use their water allotments, said Derrel Martin, a professor in water resources and irrigation engineering.

"Mostly it's about picking the most profitable alternative out of that set that they have," Martin said Tuesday.

Farmers can input their own variables, which also include size of area to be planted, how water would be delivered and production costs. Information such as average rainfall is automatically be added to the calculations, Martin said.

Ideally, farmers should perform several calculations so they can see how best to make use of their water, he said.

"We don't want them to do this one time and say 'This is my answer.' We want them to run several different scenarios to see how it's responding," Martin said.

The program was in development for more than a year and involved a team of researchers. Several farmers tested the program and results have been good so far, he said. The researchers have also been holding meetings throughout the region to further discuss water management with farmers.

There are plans to expand the Water Optimizer for use within all of Nebraska's counties, Martin said.

The program is free, although a tutorial CD and DVD can be purchased.

Source: Associatd Press

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