Farm size, irrigation practices, and conservation program participation in the US southwest

George B. Frisvold, Shailaja Deva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The US Department of Agriculture's Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey collects the most detailed and comprehensive data on US irrigation practices. Yet, because the data are only easily available in cross-tab form, data are rarely used for statistical analysis of irrigator behavior. Using data from Arizona and New Mexico, this study illustrates how statistical measures of association can be used test hypotheses about how farm size (measured by sales class) affects (i) use of water management information, (ii) investment in irrigation improvements, and (iii) participation in conservation programs. Parametric (Cochran-Armitage trend test) and nonparametric (Goodman-Kruskall gamma) methods yielded similar results. Reliance on low-cost, general information was common among all size classes, while larger operations relied more on private, tailored information. Larger operations were more likely to use directly provided data (e.g. media and Internet reports) than smaller operators, who relied more on information provided by intermediaries. Smaller farms were less likely to investigate irrigation improvements, use management-intensive methods for irrigation scheduling, or participate in cost-share programs to encourage adoption of improved irrigation practices. Adoption of scientific irrigation scheduling methods was low for all groups, but especially low for small-scale irrigators. There appear to be significant barriers to information acquisition, use of management-intensive irrigation practices, and participation in conservation programs among smaller-scale irrigators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-582
Number of pages14
JournalIrrigation and Drainage
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Conservation programs
  • Farm size
  • Information
  • Investment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science


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