- Agronomic: barley, corn, soybeans, wheat
- Vegetables: beans, cucurbits, peas (culinary), sweet corn
- Crop Production: double cropping, fertigation, irrigation, application rate management
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
- Energy: energy conservation/efficiency, energy use
- Farm Business Management: risk management
- Production Systems: general crop production
- Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures
Of Delaware’s 430,000 acres of agricultural land, approximately 27% is irrigated. While irrigation improves yields and reduces the risk of crop failure, the environmental cost of mismanagement can be sizable. Over-irrigation reduces yields, leaches fertilizer, and wastes water and energy. Under-irrigation reduces nitrogen and water use efficiency, and depresses yields. Currently, farmers use a combination of evapotranspiration, soil feel, instinct and experience to determine when to irrigate their crops. Each of these methods requires a grower to estimate the soil moisture status of each field. Recent improvements in data communication and sensor technology provide an opportunity to replace the estimation of soil moisture with actual data.
This project will demonstrate the benefits of soil moisture monitoring as a tool to apply only the irrigation water demanded by the crop. These benefits will be quantified through in-field data collection using an intensive network of soil moisture sensors and telemetry to transmit real time field data across the internet. The real time soil moisture status of the 20 yearly participants will be available to the project leaders and the growers to assist in making adjustments to the in season irrigation schedule. Changes in irrigation management practices will be quantified and reported at winter grower meetings to encourage adoption of soil moisture monitoring as a primary irrigation management tool. Delaware irrigators will be updated about the results of this project at winter irrigation meetings in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Individual growers will be surveyed before and after each meeting to record the levels of implementation and define any problems with using this system effectively.
Performance targets from proposal:
1. Twenty irrigated corn and soybean producers will be selected by the project team for the demonstration of the field monitoring equipment. (May (2013) 2. Four Hundred growers will receive invitations to attend irrigation workshops at Delaware Ag Week. (November 2013) 3. Two hundred and fifty producers with center pivot irrigation will attend irrigation management workshops that discuss the findings of the 2013 field research/demonstration. (December 2013 – January 2014) 4. Twenty new producers will be selected by the project team for the demonstration of the field monitoring equipment based on interest they expressed at the winter meetings. (May 2014 & 2015) 5. Four Hundred growers will receive invitations to attend irrigation workshops at Delaware Ag Week. (November 2014 & 2015) 6. Two hundred producers per year with center pivot irrigation will attend irrigation management workshops that discuss the findings of the 2014 & 2015 field research. (December 2014 – January 2015) 7. Forty-five growers representing nine thousand acres will adopt soil moisture monitoring to manage irrigation. (2015 growing season)