Using irrigation scheduling technology tools can increase

efficiency and yields. Photo credit/copyright: Valmont Industries Inc.


rade wars. Foreign currency meltdown. Interest rate hikes. Squabbling in Congress. The past few years have been a turbulent economic period for many growers, and the forecast for farm income isn’t necessarily bright in 2019. Commodity prices have been down, fuel costs are fluctuating, input costs are rising and labor costs continue to rise. Growers are looking for ways to control costs to maintain profitability on their farms.

One of the ways to control costs is to reduce dependence on outside help such as irrigation consultants or irrigation scheduling tools. While that strategy might seem to make sense at first glance, this approach can often be detrimental. Cutting back on irrigation scheduling can ultimately cost more in yields than will be saved by removing the expense.

Tough times can be the best times to invest in technology that can make farming more efficient and support strong yields.

Right amount, right place, right time

Proper irrigation rates can make sure water is applied in the right amount, in the right place and at the right time. It’s easy to recognize how underirrigating can reduce yields: If the crop doesn’t have enough water, its growth, development and yield formation will be stunted as a result of moisture stress.

Many growers operate under the assumption that more water is better in order to make sure the crop has enough, but overwatering results in extra costs and can cause yield loss just as easily as underwatering. Overirrigating is not an insurance policy and produces the following extra costs:

• wasted energy • wasted water • nitrogen leaching potential • unnecessary wear and tear on irrigation systems

In addition, yield losses can result from crop stress because of weakened root systems, poor nutrient uptake and higher risk of disease. Maybe worst of all, if water supply is limited, overwatering at the wrong time can create short supply when demand is greatest.

However, irrigation scheduling tools can provide the insight to know when and how much to irrigate to minimize stress, while making the best use of a limited allotment of irrigation water.

Irrigation scheduling benefits at a glance

Save time – Eliminate complex calculations you used to have to do yourself and reduce time spent in fields manually gathering information.

Increase yield potential and profitability – Use fewer resources by watering and fertigating the right amount in the right place at the right time.

Improve crop health and reduce disease – Monitor potential crop stress due to over- or under-watering, and increase production and yield quality. 19

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