Economic Evaluation of Alternative (low-water use) Crops for the Great Basin

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2009: $99,723.50
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: Utah
Principal Investigator:
Carol Bishop
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension
Dr. Kynda Curtis
Utah State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, rye, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Fruits: grapes
  • Vegetables: onions
  • Additional Plants: native plants


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Education and Training: extension, workshop
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, marketing management, farm-to-institution, risk management


    Water is an increasingly scarce commodity in the west, and as more water is diverted from agricultural use to residential and industrial purposes, producers in the Great Basin are facing the challenge of sustaining the economic viability of their enterprise with less water.
    Practices adopted by the producers may be an effective alternative to water management through policy change. Moving to alternative crops that use less water is one possibility.
    By educating those individuals involved with relaying pertinent information to agricultural producers about alternative low water use crops and the associated decision-making tools that have been developed to facilitate implementation of lower water use crops, not only can the efficiency of resource utilization be improved but agricultural communities in the Great Basin can sustain their economic viability.

    Project objectives:

    At the end of the program it is our goal that program participants will have increased knowledge and skills regarding sustainable agriculture, as well as an enhanced ability to effectively deliver knowledge and skills to agricultural producers. The following is an overview of expected program short, medium and long-term outcomes for program participants.

    • Understanding of economic, political, and environmental benefits of reducing water use in agriculture
      Understand the basic agronomics of alternative crops available to producers in the Great Basin
      Understand the components of evaluating the economic feasibility of low water use crops
      Ability to use the IRRIG-AID spreadsheet
    • Create plan to introduce seminar curriculum and other SARE resources into producer programming
      Work one-on-one with producers to evaluate the economic feasibility of alternative low water use crops on their farm/ranch
      Provide an overview of the benefits of utilizing the IRRIG-AID spreadsheet tool and demonstrate its use to producers
    • Assist agricultural producers in implementing low water use crops on their farm/ranch
      Assist producers with the measurement of changes in water use and resulting environmental improvements such as water and soil quality
      Assist producers with the measurement of changes in profitability and economic sustainability of alterative crop use
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.