Submitted to: University of Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station Publication
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: July 26, 2010
Publication Date: September 2, 2010
Citation: Vories, E.D. 2010. Remote Monitoring and Control of Irrigation. University of Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station Publication. 02582. Technical Abstract: Mid-South farmers experience less-than-optimal irrigation application efficiencies for many reasons. Farming operations are typically spread over large areas, requiring farmers to manage numerous irrigation systems at different locations simultaneously. Each field waters differently and often differences are observed within fields due to factors like highly variable soils. Irrigation workers have typically had to drive to a field to start an irrigation, go elsewhere to work at other tasks while the irrigation is underway, and then return to the field to stop the irrigation, often having to make additional trips in between to check the irrigation status. In addition to all the time and energy required, excess water is commonly applied because the worker isn’t able to shut off the system at the optimum time. Recently center pivot manufacturers have offered equipment that allows remote monitoring and control of the irrigation system. Valley has a system called Tracker (mention of trade names or commercial products is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture) that is in use at the Delta Center. Lindsay has a similar system called FieldNet. With both systems the operator can use the internet or a telephone to check the status of their center pivot system and issue commands such as starting and stopping the system. The system can also be set to contact the users when different situations occur such as a power failure. Farmers have found the systems useful for their center pivot systems, but there have been very few comparable systems for surface irrigation. In recent years, NRCS, ARS, and the White River Irrigation District (WRID) in Arkansas have been working together to develop such a system. NRCS worked with farmers in Dunklin County, Missouri in 2007 – 2008 on a system for furrow irrigation to alert the grower when the water had advanced far enough and allow him to remotely stop the irrigation. The remote control of the pump performed well, but the sensors in the furrows did not stand up well to the agricultural environment and didn’t continue to work for multiple irrigations. Efforts to find or develop better sensors are continuing. At the same time, NRCS, ARS, and the University of Arkansas worked with a rice producer in Mississippi County, Arkansas. The producer was in the same watershed as the Dunklin County producers and therefore part of the same NRCS program. As with the furrow irrigation system, the sensors placed in the paddies to detect when to start and stop the irrigation did not hold up under the harsh agricultural environment and different approaches were attempted. However, it was learned that WRID needed a similar kind of system to monitor the water levels in the farmers’ reservoirs and tailwater ditches as well as collect other information. When the NRCS program was completed the groups combined their efforts. The work is ongoing and we are still finding that many sensors can’t hold up well in agricultural environments, but we expect surface irrigators to soon have remote monitoring and control systems comparable to the center pivots.