Is Your Irrigation

System Smart?

A lot of farmers already have center pivot or lateral sprinkler systems in place, but they may not be the smartest technology. Say, for example, that you knew the weather report says it’s supposed to rain but you forgot to head out to the field and turn off your pump. Just like the weatherman said, it starts pouring and your center pivot is still running. That’s a huge waste of water and crop yield not to mention the chances of the pivot getting stuck and creating ruts increases dramatically. This debacle can be avoided by installing a smart irrigation control system.

Smart systems do so much more than just not watering when it’s raining outside. In fact, some systems can also check the weather forecast for your area in advance and plan accordingly. Additionally, a smart irrigation system can be programmed to customize the water that’s administered based on different variables. For instance, the type of soil, the evapotranspiration (ET) readings, and what crop is being grown. Plus, all of these things can be easily controlled from a tablet or smartphone while you’re on the move.

How do Smart Irrigation Systems work?

First, in order to use a smart irrigation system, you must have the necessary data gathering hardware like moisture sensors, GPS installed on pivot and remote pivot panel control box. If you do, then you’re already aware that you can program it to water before the crop stresses. What’s different about having a smart system is it takes out all the guesswork. Smart irrigation systems either connect to WiFi or for larger scale systems, a cellular network. This enables the user to access data such as weather conditions like rain, high temperatures, humidity, and water holding capacity (WHC) and then adjusts the watering schedule accordingly.

No matter what connection you go with, you have the option to get a weather-based or soil moisture controller. Weather-based controllers monitor weather conditions and predictions such as temperature, solar radiation, humidity, and wind velocity. Then, that information is used to determine when and how much to water crops. On the other hand, there are soil moisture sensors. With these, you insert a sensor directly into the soil which takes readings and sends the info directly to a crop modeling system which interprets the data and plans your watering schedule. This data can also be sent to your tablet or smartphone. The great thing about soil moisture sensors is they are incredibly accurate when placed correctly. However, for a big field, you will probably need multiple sensors.

What’s nice about being able to control irrigation from your tablet or smartphone is you can make changes anywhere. This is true whether you’re at home on the couch, or gone on vacation. Additionally, you won’t waste as much water which is both good for the environment and your pocketbook. Also, you can grant others access to your system if you plan on being away, and need someone to watch over your crops.

Smart and Sustainable

A huge portion of water use in the United States, about 30 percent, is for outdoor use according to the EPA. Of that, about half is wasted because of poor irrigation systems and watering methods. In a time when water is no longer cheap or plentiful, it’s more important than ever to conserve as much as we can. Especially since the world population is estimated to reach 9 billion people by 2050. Overall, we need to be able to produce a lot more food in the coming years to be able to feed everyone. The best way to ensure we’re able to grow enough food is by wasting less. Smart irrigation systems make this a possibility.

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