Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Biological Engineering

Degree Level



Biological and Agricultural Engineering


Runkle, Benjamin

Committee Member/Reader

Reba, Michele

Committee Member/Second Reader

Massey, Joseph

Committee Member/Third Reader

Moreno-García, Beatriz


Arkansas farmers account for more than 50% of United States production of rice, a crop that requires 3 to 5 times as much water as other regional crops. Methods of reducing water use and increasing its efficiency are being explored throughout the rice production industry, including irrigation management, better land grading, and precipitation capture. This project investigates the combination of these methods. The objectives of this project were to assess field-level water inputs, identify relationships between rice growth and water input, and analyze weather patterns in zero-grade fields in central Arkansas. Subsequent results were used to determine if there is an opportunity for farmers to sustainably use precipitation to reduce water use and how predictive weather tools affect this opportunity. Water input analysis shows that precipitation comprised between one third and one half of the water input of the four fields studied, and proportionally increased water depth, even delaying drying-down events by multiple days. Strong correlations between rice growth and water inputs, with R values up to 0.98, suggest that consistent and sufficient water input is instrumental to healthy rice growth and preventing crop stress. Finally, regional and local climate data suggest a shift toward fewer, more intense precipitation events during summer months, as well as continually increasing temperatures. Both trends mean that future water management is crucial to avoid plant stress and maximize water use efficiency. With sufficient monitoring of available weather tools, rice farmers in Central Arkansas can sustainably use precipitation to reduce water use by scheduling irrigation around rain events, especially as the resolution of these tools continues to improve.


irrigation, zero-grade, rice, precipitation, rainfall