Illinois, Nebraska scientists propose improvements to precision crop irrigation

A new study from the University of Illinois and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln says farmers could be losing money if they’re not adapting to precision irrigation technology for center pivots.

Trenton Franz, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor and co-author of the study, says center pivots tend to over water and new technology can make irrigation more efficient. “But doing that data and remote sensing has been a big challenge,” he says. “We’ve focused on just water supply: how much is in the soil versus evapotranspiration and how much do the pants want. We’re really trying to marry those two techniques together in a smart way where we can actually get that data from remote sensing as well as filling in that information,” Franz says.

Franz tells Brownfield a large gap exists between applied research and how it can be used by growers. “When and how much to water on a smart phone application and be able to trust that data, make that decision within 30 to 45 seconds and something more complicated than that won’t be useful on the ground.”

Franz says field-scale remote cameras, sensors and high resolution and high frequency satellite data can help track soil and plant conditions.

The research also says one the biggest challenge for farmers is achieving full-scale irrigation through data collection, plant water stress, modeling and decision-making.

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