Challenges and opportunities for education in irrigation engineering

D. O. Porter, S. Irmak, F. Lamm, T. H. Marek, B. Rein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Irrigation continues to be economically important in the U.S. and internationally, yet there is concern about future accessibility to appropriate expertise and the engineering preparation of irrigation professionals for both public and private sectors. Recent and impending retirements of academic and industry leaders, losses of some important academic programs (curricula/degree programs, research, and extension) in irrigation engineering, and reduced numbers of students threaten to significantly limit irrigation engineering capacity, especially in agricultural irrigation. Some of the challenges can be met through opportunities afforded by development of distance education programs; expansion of multi-state, multiagency, multi-university collaborations; and increasing public-private partnerships, as well as through vigorous recruitment efforts. Recruitment can be strengthened by improving the competitiveness of salaries to be commensurate with other engineering disciplines, and by demonstrating and better explaining the abilities of the irrigation engineering profession to meet future challenges related to food, fiber, fuel, and ecosystem demands of a rapidly growing global population. While access to irrigation engineering expertise, especially domestic expertise, has declined, the need for such technical support and information for practitioners has not decreased. In fact, in many cases, technical advancements from public and industry developments have greatly outpaced the capacity for applied research and extension programs to robustly evaluate technologies and deliver objective, science-based recommendations. Growing knowledge gaps and time lags have exacerbated restlessness among some audiences, increasing the opportunities for promotion of unsubstantiated claims for some products that remain unchallenged, and further confusing appropriate selection from a growing array of available technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1289-1294
Number of pages6
JournalTransactions of the ASABE
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Food Science
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science


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