AgTech: Agriculture Water Conservation by Stripling Irrigation Research Park

SIRP actively participates in researching and implementing the latest agricultural water conservation tools. The park provides onsite demonstrations, field days, and tours highlighting new technologies offered by several different companies. Agricultural water conservation is vital to the future of south Georgia’s economic, social, and environmental health. Agriculture is the chief economy of this region, producing over $2 billion in farm-based revenue and approximately $70 billion statewide. The Flint River (and its tributaries) is also home to an array of biological diversity, including federally endangered mussel species.

Persistent droughts, energy costs, urban expansion, and interstate litigation are collectively threatening irrigation water supplies in the Southeast. Conservation of agricultural water is critical for sustaining the economic development of rural farming areas. University of Georgia Extension estimates that 1 inch of water costs $12 per acre-inch through overhead sprinkler application. Growers are interested in precision irrigation applications that allow for less water use while maintaining optimum yield. Examples of some conservation practices implemented at SIRP and in the surrounding basin are listed below:

• Variable Rate Irrigation
(VRI) is a tool of precision agriculture that optimizes irrigation water application.
• Low Pressure Sprinkler Retrofits
• Conservation Tillage
Conservation tillage refers to using a cover crop and intentionally leaving plant residue from a prior crop in the field. This modifies plant rooting structure and physiology to enable more efficient water use by crops, and water holding capacity in the soil improves.
• Advanced Irrigation Scheduling
Advanced Irrigation Scheduling identifies precise periods of time in which a farmer can irrigate by using objective field data such as soil moisture, soil temperature, crop growth stage and localized evapo-transpiration (ET) data.
• Remote Soil Moisture Monitoring (RSMM)
The purpose of a soil moisture monitoring system is to deploy probes or sensors to detect soil moisture conditions which are critical to optimal crop production. Monitoring soil moisture status allows the farmer or consultant to detect plant stress before the plant displays obvious signs of stress.
• Water Balance Methods
Irrigation scheduling tools that predict when to irrigate based on weather and crop conditions are prevalent, and many of these are available in the form of computer programs or websites. Current weather data is used to calculate an amount of water that would be evaporated by a reference crop such as grass, and then a crop coefficient is used to scale that reference value to a specific crop need. The majority of these programs are based on the water balance method.
• Easy Pan
The EASY Pan (Evaporation based Accumulator for Sprinkler enhanced Yield) is an affordable and easily operable system that yields representative results in the humid region of the southeast U.S.. No record keeping is necessary for this method, and the unit can be read from a distance quickly.

Source :