If farmers and agronomists were better able to use data from their irrigation management systems - including information on weather, soil moisture and crop types - they could make more informed decisions about when, where and how much water to apply, resulting in smarter energy and water use, and lowering costs while protecting or improving yield. This need to better manage data is especially relevant and valuable as growers continue to collect information using different types and brands of equipment. To respond to this pressing need for seamless exchange of data, AgGateway's PAIL (Precision Ag Irrigation Leadership) Project has been developing open, international irrigation standards over the past four years that are now nearing completion. At the same time, the PAIL Project team is expanding its work to include drip irrigation, which will further strengthen the irrigation standards.    

More than 20 AgGateway member companies are collaborating on the project, including leading manufacturers of sensors, weather stations, pivots, controllers and software solutions. In coming weeks the team will submit the proposed standards to ASABE (American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers); after publication of the standards the team expects their widespread adoption in farm technology equipment. Two successful field trials have already demonstrated the benefits of the new standards.

"How we manage water is a huge consideration in agriculture today. We are moving toward publication of these standards, which will be a major step forward in precision agriculture. As the standards are implemented, growers will be armed with greater ability to make smart irrigation decisions," said Aaron Berger, Software Engineer at AgSense, and Chair of the PAIL Project.

"I'm looking forward to the day when I can easily extract accurate data and make rapid, informed decisions about watering our crops," said Roric Paulman of Paulman Farms, a Nebraska grain farmer who has been watching the PAIL Project developments with interest.

Added Berger, "Systems that use the PAIL data standards will make efficient practices more understandable and simplify the way data is moved around the web."

As the current work is reviewed by ASABE, the PAIL team is moving its focus to drip irrigation, and welcomes input from growers and industry experts to ensure that the scope of work is complete. Those interested are encouraged to contact PAIL Project Manager Dan Berne at dan@nextchaptermarketing.com. Project details will also be discussed at AgGateway's Mid-Year Meeting in Bloomington, Minn., June 13-16; details can be found at www.AgGateway.org.

Standards drafted under the PAIL Project have been developed in sync with other AgGateway precision agriculture work, including the recently released open-source ADAPT model, which is designed to enable inter-operability between different software and hardware applications. 

AgGateway's PAIL Project is co-sponsored the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. Participating companies include Ag Connections, Agrian, AgSense, Campbell Scientific, CropMetrics, Crop IMS, Decagon Devices, Eco-Drip, Irrometer, Irrinet, Iteris, John Deere, J.R. Simplot, Lindsay Corp., MapShots, Monsanto, Observant, OnFarm Systems, Ranch Systems, Valmont Industries, Weather Decision Technologies, Wysocki Produce Farms, and ZedX.

More information can be found at www.AgGateway.org.