Moisture sensors are key part of efficient irrigation
Tom Eubank, an Extension soybean agronomist and MAFES researcher in Stoneville, has evaluated PHAUCET for four years under a grant from the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board.
“Our research has shown that PHAUCET reduces water, fuel and irrigation usage by 20 percent versus conventional irrigation sets in regular-shaped fields,” Eubank said. “In irregular-shaped fields, PHAUCET could reduce water use as much as 50 percent.”
Krutz said furrow irrigation controlled by PHAUCET that uses surge valves is the most efficient form of irrigation in the Delta. Surge values increase irrigation efficiency by evening the distribution of water across a field.
“If you are operating in the Delta and using polypipe and not using PHAUCET, you are leaving money on the table,” Kurtz said. “For a moment, set aside the water use issue. This is real money, and this can save you a lot of money. It’s that simple.”
The final tools are soil moisture sensors placed at 6, 12, 24 and 36 inches deep. These take the guesswork out of determining how much moisture the soil has available to plants. Portable soil moisture meters allow a producer to spot check a field at will, confirming the data being received from the soil moisture sensors installed in the field.
“By just looking at the sensors twice a week, a producer can tell three days in advance when they need to pull the trigger on their irrigation,” Krutz said.
Most traditional irrigation is done on a schedule that is based on soil type and the water demands of the crop at a particular maturity point. Rain alters the situation, making it more difficult to properly time the next irrigation application. Krutz said sensors allow producers to “see” the active rooting zone and water use within that rooting zone throughout the season.
“I promise that you will recoup the money the first season. You might be able to do that the first time you run irrigation,” Krutz said.