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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Florence, South Carolina » Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #363811

Research Project: Managing Water Availability and Quality for Sustainable Agricultural Production and Conservation of Natural Resources in Humid Regions

Location: Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research

Title: A variable rate irrigation decision support system for corn in the US Eastern Coastal Plain

item Stone, Kenneth - Ken
item BAUER, PHILIP - Former ARS Employee
item O`Shaughnessy, Susan
item ANDRADE, MANUEL - Former ARS Employee
item Evett, Steven - Steve

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/27/2019
Publication Date: 7/8/2019
Citation: Stone, K.C., Bauer, P.J., Oshaughnessy, S.A., Andrade, M.A., Evett, S.R. 2019. A variable rate irrigation decision support system for corn in the US Eastern Coastal Plain. In: Stafford, J.V., ed. Precision Agriculture '19 - Proceedings 12th European Conference on Precision Agriculture, July 8-11, 2019. Montpellier, France. 2019. p. 673-679.

Interpretive Summary: In the southeastern USA, irrigation is often required to reduce crop stress due to short term droughts and to maintain profitability. In the region, center pivot irrigation systems are commonly used for corn and cotton production. Newer center pivot irrigation systems can apply water spatially to precision apply water based on crop and soil feedback, but it is not widely used due to increased management requirements. To address this, researchers have developed a decision support system that utilizes remote sensing plant, soil, and microclimate to schedule spatial water applications. The decision support system utilized infrared thermometers to measure crop canopy temperatures and field soil moisture sensors. Data from these sensors were used to analyze potential crop stress and to create an irrigation recommendation. The decision support System was evaluated for three growing seasons. Crop yields and water usage for the first two years for irrigation using the decision support system were similar to non-irrigated yields due to adequate rainfall during the growing season. In the third year of the study, drought conditions occurred during critical corn growth stages. The decision support irrigation treatments had significantly greater corn yields than the non-irrigated treatments and higher water use efficiency. These results will help to provide a tool for growers to use in managing spatial irrigation with variable rate center pivot irrigation systems.

Technical Abstract: Variable rate irrigation (VRI) systems can apply different water depths both in the direction of travel and along the irrigation system length. In this research, a VRI system was evaluated using the USDA-ARS Irrigation Scheduling and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (ISSCADA) to spatially managing corn irrigation in the US Eastern Coastal Plain. The ISSCADA system utilizes remote sensing of plant canopy temperature, soil moisture, and microclimate to schedule VRI irrigations. Utilizing these measurements, it calculates an integrated crop water stress index and provides a spatial irrigation recommendation. Results from 3-years of field evaluation are discussed.