Continuing to Promote the Use of Soil Moisture Sensors to Efficiently Schedule Irrigation
Growers are communicating the value of utilizing moisture sensors and there is growing interest in Jefferson County among producers. Over the last several years, there has been an increase in irrigated acres with approximately 60% of row crop acres irrigated in the county. With the increase in irrigation use comes the need for irrigation efficiency. Jefferson County Extension collaborated with Burke County Extension and UGA Irrigation and Ag Technologies specialists to utilize innovation grant funding to continue work promoting soil moisture sensor technology. Data from these sensors were interpreted daily to more efficiently schedule irrigation events with farmer cooperators.
Many growers feel they may be under watering at certain stages of plant growth and over watering at other stages. The ability to collect moisture data from the root-zone soil profile enables the grower to better manage the water needs of the plant through these stages. Due to the lack of funding of AG W.E.T. projects in Southeast District, Burke and Jefferson County Agents were going to be limited as to how to facilitate a project that demonstrated efficient irrigation scheduling. Low commodity prices have increased the pressure to reduce input costs; therefore making irrigation decisions are very important to the bottom line.
The Jefferson Agent installed three soil moisture meters and a base station in a cotton and peanut field with a farmer cooperator. Each field was monitored using the Trellis system to schedule irrigation. Rain gauges were installed to record rain and irrigation events. Agents were responsible for using UGA recommendations per crop to determine for the growers when to irrigate.Collaboration with specialist, Dr. Wes Porter, occurred through development of irrigation recommendations and thresholds in addition to data compilation and analysis to determine water use efficiency of crops grown. Agents worked with growers to select similar comparison fields near test fields that the grower scheduled irrigation using their own methods. Growers were responsible for maintaining irrigation and rainfall data for comparison fields. Whole field yields will be taken from comparison fields and test fields by obtaining records from gins, buying points and harvest equipment monitors.
An irrigation field day was held on-farm where moisture sensors were installed. Growers from the area gained insight on installation cost, proper sensor placement, using software to manage data and past yield comparison data from AgWET projects presented by UGA specialists. All growers attending were more comfortable with the use of sensor technology for irrigation scheduling in peanuts and cotton. Interest was stimulated among area growers in installing and utilizing such technology. Furthermore, at an average pumping cost of $8/acre, growers would be able to save approximately $212,000 by eliminating unnecessary irrigation events.
Sustainability, Conservation, and the Environment
- Year: 2019
- Geographic Scope: County
- County: Jefferson
- Location: College Station, Athens
- Agriculture & Natural Resources
- Porter, Wesley
- Sapp, J. Peyton
- Virk, Simerjeet