Spatiotemporal Patterns of Irrigation Adoption in Alabama

Authors: Ashleigh Price*, The University of Alabama, Nicholas Magliocca, The University of Alabama, Cameron Troy Handyside , The University of Alabama Huntsville , Greg Guthrie, Geological Survey of Alabama
Topics: Spatial Analysis & Modeling, Agricultural Geography, American South
Keywords: Agriculture, Deep South, Irrigation, Survival Analysis
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 52
Presentation File: Download



Agricultural communities in Alabama are experiencing some of the nation’s highest, and most rapidly increasing, rates of poverty and economic inequality. As agriculture plays a significant role in the statewide economy, one way to address this widespread disadvantage is with drastic increases in farm productivity. The transition from rain-fed to irrigation-fed (RFtoIF) agricultural practices has been shown to significantly increase crop productivity and farm profitability elsewhere in the United States. Despite this potential to encourage stability and resilience in rural economies, irrigated cropland accounts for only 5% of the state’s total cropland as numerous barriers remain to irrigation adoption in Alabama. Despite ample annual rainfall, periodic seasonal droughts can create water restrictions, riparian rights laws prevent access to surface water for most farms, and the initial investment and maintenance costs for irrigation equipment vary widely throughout the state. A more holistic approach to improving irrigation policy and practice requires identifying challenges faced by individual farms and communities. This project presents a multi-level mixed effects survival analysis to identify the physiographic, socioecological, and economic factors that influence farmers’ receptiveness to the RFtoIF transition. We use individual farms as the unit of analysis and integrate spatiotemporal cropland and climatological data with field-verified locations of center-pivot irrigation systems, local socioeconomic characteristics, and farm-level data regarding land tenure, surface water access, and average well depth. The results identify the degree to which specific factors influence the timing and location of irrigation adoption and highlight the incentives needed to spur the RFtoIF transition in Alabama.

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