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Irrigating on “Scheduler” for a Bigger Yield Forecast

By Don Comis
April 24, 1997

Beating county yield averages by at least 25 percent in corn, sorghum and wheat yields might just sound like a farmer’s pipe dream. But three years of tests on a Texas farm showed a computer program called “SCS-Scheduler” can help make that dream come true, scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service report.

The Scheduler computer program uses temperature and other data from field weather stations to cue growers on the best time to irrigate, even before the plants show any outward signs of damage. ARS scientists worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly the Soil Conservation Service) to develop the Scheduler.

In June 1992, the Scheduler alerted scientists that prolonged hot weather had speeded up corn growth, requiring earlier-than-usual irrigation to save yields. On the Texas test fields in 1993, Scheduler-irrigated corn yielded an average 199 bushels an acre, compared to that year’s county average of 157 bushels--an increase of 27 percent. A Hutchinson County, Texas, farmer who continued to use the Scheduler long after the test ended says his yield increases in corn, wheat and grain sorghum have continued, too.

Farmers who are interested in obtaining the Scheduler should inquire at the nearest Natural Resources Conservation Service office.