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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: OPTIMIZING IRRIGATION MANAGEMENT FOR HUMID CLIMATES

Location: Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research

Title: Using Automation to Improve Surface Irrigation Management

Authors
item Vories, Earl
item Hester, John - USDA-NRCS
item Tacker, Phil - UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS
item Fisher, Daniel

Submitted to: ASABE Annual International Meeting
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: May 14, 2009
Publication Date: June 22, 2009
Citation: Vories, E.D., Hester, J., Tacker, P., Fisher, D.K. 2009. Using Automation to Improve Surface Irrigation Management. In: Proceedings of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Annual International Meeting, June 21-24, 2009, Reno, Nevada. ASABE Paper No. 095945. pp 9.

Interpretive Summary: Farmers in the Lower Mississippi Water Resource Area experience less-than-optimal surface irrigation application efficiencies for many reasons, so new technology was demonstrated to remotely monitor irrigation systems and send alerts to the farmers. Producers felt the remote access to their irrigation systems saved both time and fuel, but expressed concern about some of the remote sensors. In 2009, the project team plans to test additional experimental sensors to allow more detailed information about the depth of water in rice paddies. If the systems can be shown to conserve water and energy, the farmers may be eligible for cost-sharing programs to help defray the cost. In addition to cost savings for the producer, everyone will benefit from reductions in energy demand and water use.

Technical Abstract: In the Lower Mississippi Water Resource Area (WRA 08), also called the Mid-South, 2 million ha of cropland (80% of the irrigated farmland) employ surface irrigation, almost equally divided between furrow (52%) and controlled flooding (48%). Because Mid-South farmers experience less-than-optimal surface irrigation application efficiencies for many reasons, new technology was demonstrated to remotely monitor furrow irrigation and continuous flood (rice) and alert the farmers of the irrigation status. With furrow irrigation, the producers felt the remote access to their irrigation systems saved both time and fuel; however, the producers expressed concern about using remote sensors to notify them of furrow advance. A prototype depth monitor tested in rice fields in 2008 operated like a set of float switches, with high or low water levels causing messages to be sent to a master controller. In 2009, the producer and the project team plan to be able to monitor the water status of the field through a secure website and test additional experimental sensors to allow more detailed information about the depth of water in the paddy. Because the technology being demonstrated is relatively new, the cost may be more than a typical farmer could afford. However, if the system can be shown to conserve water and energy, it may be eligible for cost-sharing. As with any new technology, once there are many systems operating the cost would be expected to decrease and additional capabilities would likely be added.

Last Modified: 9/1/2014
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