Improving Water Use Efficiency in Conventional and Organic Almonds through Data Driven Irrigation
P-R Farms, Inc. was able to use the grant monies to significantly improve their yield per amount of water for their conventional almond trees during the 2016 season by utilizing advanced irrigation practices (ET-SMM, ET-based irrigation with soil moisture monitoring and Partial ET, irrigation using Regulated Deficit Irrigation at key times of the year). Specifically, P-R Farms, Inc. was able to take the water and energy data provided by Powwow’s Pump Monitoring system and Hortau sensor readings and make irrigation set adjustments accordingly. Unfortunately, P-R Farms, Inc.’s organic almonds did not experience as much of a yield increase as their conventional. Therefore, part of the grant monies was allotted towards advancing their fertility plan in these project areas.
Overall, P-R Farms, Inc. was able to meet their objectives/performance targets under this project. In particular, they were able to advance their irrigation infrastructure yielding higher pump efficiency and field uniformity. Additionally, they were able to optimize irrigation scheduling based on soil conditions, spatial CIMIs, crop models from ANR, and aerial imaging. Water and energy usage was able to be tracked as well. Thus, their goal of demonstrating and quantifying the economic value and environmental impact of utilizing advanced irrigation practices was met during the 2016 season.
P-R farms was able to successfully implement the project. Benchmarks were completed for both irrigation and fertilization. Pumps were converted from diesel to electric which largely reduced energy usage and greenhouse gases. Powwow’s system enabled us to identify our soil types and variability to gage our irrigation sets using data from spatial CIMIS, crop models from ANR, and aerial images. Sandy soils were irrigated more frequently with shorter sets. Clay soils were irrigated less frequently with longer sets. Irrigation for both fields was based on ET readings through the Powwow interface. Irrigation schedules are provided by Powwow on a weekly basis and foreman irrigate to meet the demand of the crop per week. Alerts were sent by text directly to the Irrigation Specialist, who relayed recommended sets to the foreman. Monthly imagery was also provided to identify areas that were in need of improvement. P-R Farms is in the process of refining our fertility plan for organics with Kurt Quade through the SARE grant. We are now taking into account all fertility inputs for 2015 and 2016. After receiving the recommendations given by Kurt, P-R Farms is taking many steps to improve their fertility measures. Well water tests have been taken as well as hull sampling to help gage the fertility needs of our crop. Our PCA is working closely with our irrigation specialist to ensure that both the fertility plan and irrigation benchmark are in alignment.See attached powerpoint for additional information and examples in regards to the project:P-R Farms SARE Annual Report
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Overall, 2016 was a good season for P-R Farms yields were up on the conventional with areas of improvement for the organic. The yield was down on the organic due to the sudden change in irrigation from flood to micro sprinkler. It may take up to two more years for the root structure of the trees to adapt to the new irrigation design. However, the conventional had a dramatic increase in yield as a result of the newly adopted processes. We are looking into the growing patterns of the Independence variety to see how we can improve yield. We feel that we can build on what has been done in 2016 by continuing to improve the processes of our team. It is very important that we provide training so the irrigation tools continue to be used correctly. We can also improve our GIS integration to develop skills internally. Advanced irrigation practices helped immensely but we also need to focus on our fertility plans for 2017.